Heated debate on land

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… Warning about taking Zimbabwe route

WINDHOEK — Linyati Constituency Councillor in the Zambezi Region, Cletius Sipapela, has warned that Namibia is sitting on a time bomb when it comes to the land issue and that Namibian people might be forced to take the Zimbabwean route if steps are not taken for land to be equally shared. 

“We talk to people with no hearts,” he said, adding: “Despite the policy of national reconciliation the white farmers are reluctant to share land with black Namibians.”

Sipalela was contributing to the National Council debate yesterday on the Agricultural  (Commercial) Land Reform Amendment Bill, in which he also cautioned that time is not very far for people to consider other alternatives if those with land do not want to share it.

Government is facing challenges to implement land reform since independence because of some commercial farmers who are either unwilling to sell commercial farmland or offer it at exorbitant prices to the State.

The Linyati councillor said the Ministry of Home Affairs is inundated with work permit applications from foreign nationals who bought shares in farms.

He alleged that application forms were disappearing from the Ministry of Trade and Industry so that it would not be established who owns shares in commercial farms.

Sipalela said some farmers own more than 10 000 hectares of land while others have nothing, while an allocation of between 1 500 and 2 000 hectares is more than sufficient for one farmer.

“What is failing us? What is the two-third majority (Swapo vote) doing for us?” he asked.

Sharing Sipalela’s sentiments was Deputy Minister of Works and Transport Kilus Nguvauva, who warned those with abundant land not to stifle implementation of the commercial land reform amendment bill once it becomes an Act of Parliament.

“I am assuring you, we will come up with other methods that will work. They should not force us to go to that level if it becomes an Act of Parliament,” Nguvauva, who is also the Steinhausen constituency councillor, told fellow parliamentarians.

The Deputy Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Theo Diergaardt, said the implementation of the Communal Land Reform Act, 2002 is faced with challenges stemming from the absence of regulatory provisions with regard to control of access to communal lands by foreign nationals,

and the issues of the powers of the traditional authority or chiefs and communal land board when it comes to removal of illegal and unrecognized fences and granting of land rights.

Diergaardt explained to fellow parliamentarians that amendments to the Communal Land Reform Act, 1995 were proposed to provide a negotiated approach in terms of farmland purchase price but the land ministry has established that most farm land owners are hesitant to offer their farms to the State because they are not given an opportunity to withdraw their farms from being up for sale when not satisfied with the offered price.

“This amendment is thus expected to encourage farm owners to offer their land to the State as it gives them (as willing seller) an opportunity to engage in negotiations over the farm price with the State as the willing buyer,” he said.

The amendment Bill further proposes the issuing of a waiver certificate to individual commercial farm owners having agreements with previously disadvantaged Namibians to purchase their farms.

The waiver certificate will bear the name of both seller and buyer, which means that when the two cannot conclude a deal, the seller cannot sell the land to anyone else but first offer it to the State.

The third amendment proposes that an obligation be placed on companies, close corporations, other entities or juristic persons to first offer their land to the State not only when the transfer of shares in such entities results in controlling interest being created, but also whenever any shares are changing hands.

Diergaardt said companies and close corporations are currently using the selling of shares or other real rights over land as a way of evading the preferential right vested in the State over land being alienated, which has seen a lot of land being transferred under the control of foreign nationals.

By Magreth Nunuhe

 

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