Cabinet studies foreign land ownership

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By Mathias Haufiku

WINDHOEK- Cabinet is hard at work to complete a report in which it will outline the way forward regarding the much-awaited legislation on foreigners owning land in Namibia.

This came to light yesterday as neighbouring South Africa passes a much-hailed law that will ban foreigners from owning farmland in that country.

Lands Minister Alpheus !Naruseb told New Era yesterday that the Cabinet committee on land related matters is busy compiling the report which will in part reveal Namibia’s standing on land ownership by foreigners.

The ruling party Swapo resolved about two years ago to ban foreigners from owning farmland in the country, but government is still working out modalities around that suggestion.

Land-starved Namibians have in recent years urged government to devise laws banning foreign nationals from owning land in Namibia and to shorten the lease period which is currently benched at 99 years.

“It [banning of foreign land ownership] is a resolution of the Swapo Party, it must be translated into a law of the country,” !Naruseb said.

“As much as we as party functionaries have our wish list regarding the matter, it has to transformed from a party resolution into a national law so that it can become applicable. Some things have become problematic in the country,” said !Naruseb.

He said the committee will look into both urban and farmland aspects.

“The committee is at the tail-end when it comes to completing the report and thereafter the nation will be informed accordingly,” he said.
!Naruseb urged the nation to wait patiently for the report to be released to learn about the legal framework surrounding land ownership.
In June 1991, a National Land Conference was held to discuss the land question. The conference, broadly representative in its attendance, reached a measure of consensus on the issue of redistribution.

These included the resolutions that any redistribution would be on a compensatory ‘willing seller/willing buyer’ basis, and, significantly, that there could be no recognition of ancestral land claims.

Perhaps the biggest regret emanating from that conference was that all of its 24 recommendations focused only on farmland related matters, such as foreign ownership of land in Namibia, ancestral land rights, absentee landlords, farm sizes and numbers, land tenure and grazing rights. No mention of urban land was made.

In a 2012 interview with international television station, Al Jazeera, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, himself a former lands minister, warned of a coming land revolution if the issue of land was not addressed with speed.

Pohamba said many Namibians were frustrated because they do not own land and urged farm owners to sell off parts of their farms to government so that the land can be equitably distributed.

“Since people have no land they have no means of production. We need to amend the constitution otherwise we will face a revolution, and if it happens land will be taken over by the revolutionaries,” warned the president at the time.

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