By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK “Good land, inclusive of administration, is one of the keys to economic growth and development in any country, but specifically in Namibia.” So said the deputy minister of Lands and Resettlement, Isak Katali, the keynote speaker last week at a three-day meeting on good administration of land at the Polytechnic of Namibia. “This meeting serves as an encouragement to Namibia’s efforts of improving the quality of life in human settlements through affordable security of land tenure. In this regard, the Namibian and Dutch governments work closely together in terms of capacity-building and training,” Katali said at the meeting which was jointly organized by the Polytechnic of Namibia and the United Nations University School for Land Administration in The Netherlands. Katali praised the Dutch government for assistance rendered to his government with regard to training for officials. “Generally, in most countries, low-income people in informal settlements often lack security of tenure and constantly live under the threat of possible eviction from their homes and/or their land. They normally live in overcrowded conditions with a lack of proper sanitation, limited amenities and urban services such as hospitals, schools, streets, electricity, water and sewerage systems,” Katali said. He charged that the present land registration system operative in Namibia is highly cumbersome and costly. “This system is not affordable to the majority of the people due to the high costs involved. It has been difficult for the public sector to respond adequately to the dramatic demand for urban land. It has also become evident that conventional planning, cadastral surveying and registration create high costs in land allocation,” said Katali, who intimated that the Namibian government recognizes the fact that it has become of paramount importance to perform certain planning control functions in protecting basic human and land rights. “This recognition has led to a paradigm shift in thinking and planning about other land tenure systems to address the issues of affordability, fairness and justice. The central problem our government faced immediately after Independence was how to establish a more equitable, orderly and non-disruptive access to land, and rationalization of land use patterns in meeting the overall objectives of economic growth,” he said. He explained to the international audience the workings of his ministry’s proposed affordable land registration system, The Flexible Land Tenure System. “The lowest level of this system assures people of the right to live on a piece of land in perpetuity without fear of being evicted and without compensation or being offered an alternative. The next level of tenure provides them with almost all the rights entailed in freehold title under the common law, but without the complications of full freehold. Recognition of starter and land-hold title will exist parallel to the existing registration system,” he assured those present of the system, which has been applauded as a good example of land tenure reform in Africa. He suggested that land issues should not be dealt with in isolation but that all forms of land tenure should be taken into account. “We all have one common goal, to constantly improve the well-being of society, equally in urban as well as rural areas. All those involved in this endeavour must find common ground to coordinate their efforts and achieve a common goal in the process. It is therefore relevant that government institutions, the private sector and individuals must join hands in exercising this social responsibility,” he urged.
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