Industry jittery over land tensions

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WINDHOEK – The country’s business sector has appealed to authorities to – as a matter of urgency – resolve issues related to the availability of urban land, saying the ongoing heated confrontations are mentally taxing and bad for economic growth.

The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) yesterday joined the ongoing national debate over access to affordable urban land, saying the manner in which the issue of serviced land scarcity is addressed is a major concern to the business sector.

“The problem of land scarcity in this country is indeed real and very serious,” NCCI CEO, Tarah Shaanika, said.
“It affects business development and economic growth in the country. It deprives many Namibians of an opportunity to have dignified shelter and comfortable homes. It has persisted for far too long and should therefore be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

NCCI, the country’s distinguished organised body for private businesses, called a press conference yesterday where it warned that while the challenge of serviced land scarcity requires urgent action and a lasting solution, it should be addressed “with sober minds and in an orderly fashion”.

NCCI said past mistakes should be admitted but emphasised that focus should be placed on solutions that are genuine, realistic and lasting.
“The ongoing squabbles and name calling from different corners of the society is immature and destructive,” Shaanika said.

“We, as a nation, must engage in constructive dialogue to find a genuine solution that will not only result in the availing of adequate serviced land in all our local authority areas but also at prices that are competitive for businesses and affordable for individual Namibians who want to own land either for housing or business purposes. Namibia is so big with such a tiny population and to say that we have a huge land problem appears laughable and nonsensical. So, we must move with speed.”

An advocacy body calling itself Affirmative Repositioning has been on collision course with government and the ruling party, Swapo, over the high prices of land and houses.

Affirmative Repositioning founders Job Amupanda, Dimbulukeni Nauyoma and George Kambala have already been suspended by Swapo over differences with party leaders on access to land.

NCCI yesterday pointed at the recommendations made at the 2011 Urban Land Conference, saying the fact that the problem of serviced land scarcity remains critical to this date despite the submission of the conference recommendations to the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, “could be a sign that either there are serious bureaucratic bottlenecks in our system or simply lack of political will on the part of government” to address the issue.

The 2011 conference concluded with calls to speed up the surveying, proclamation and servicing of land and recommended amendments to applicable legislation and where necessary, scrapping of some existing laws dealing with urban development and land delivery for more land to be serviced faster and availed for development within local authorities.

Shaanika bemoaned the fact that new and existing businesses find it extremely difficult to acquire land to develop, which he said results in delayed investment as well as delayed job opportunities.

“For many years now, the NCCI has been calling for a viable long-term solution to the artificial scarcity of serviced land for business and housing development in all our local authorities areas.

Shaanika said a number of businesses have expressed interest in building housing and accommodation for their employees but have been unable to due to the unavailability of serviced land.

He also called for action against corrupt activities in terms of land allocation, saying such shenanigans also artificially increase the price of land. “Councillors and officials that are found wanting should be dealt with without fear or favour,” said Shaanika, while calling on government and particularly the President-elect Dr Hage Geingob to provide leadership on the matter by creating conducive platforms for healthy engagements and dialogue, which would lead to a national action plan to deliver affordable serviced land for business and housing within the shortest period possible.

“Patience of the people might be running out and urgent action is required. Mass housing cannot be seen as the final solution because it addresses the problem in a fragmented manner. The absence of adequate serviced land is the primary problem, housing units availability is secondary. We must address the core problem swiftly,” advised Shaanika.

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