Land tax and the production of food

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FARMING is a very important economic undertaking in every country. It is on farmland where rearing of animals and growing of crops, which are used to feed the nation, take place. No people can survive without food, therefore, the production of food is the priority of every country and those who produce food are enabled to succeed in doing so.

However, that reality as it may, the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act, 1995 Act No. 6 of 1995 imposes land tax through its provisions on farmers who produce food for the country. Those who perceived the idea of imposing this land tax might have had the intention of using the money, which is collected through such tax, to buy land for resettlement purposes. They might have also argued that farming is a business venture like all the other businesses therefore the farmers must pay land tax like other business owners. There is nothing illegal about this land tax, but that as it may, there are issues the initiators of this land tax did not take into consideration, which have negative effects on the commercial farmers.

Poverty reduction can also be partly achieved through development of agriculture, which produces food because it is a fact that people eat and survive from food. And if there are some people who do some things that other people do not do, there are no people, no matter where, who cannot eat food and survive and those involved in agricultural development and food production produce this food.

All these have to be done and maintained. Even if the farming is sometimes plagued by infectious diseases – which kill the animals, or faced with serious long periods of drought – which affect the farming activities negatively, there is no doubt that the farmers are producers of indispensable and vital food for the people of the given country where they are farming.

While expenditures on maintenance of the farms are drastically increasing, the profit and income on the farm products are sliding down. Therefore, it was, indeed, a myopic way of trying to solve the land problem by imposing punitive land tax on all the farmers but not imposing such land tax only on those who have multiple farms or excessive farmland or absentee landlords.

There are two options for formerly disadvantaged Namibian persons to get land. One of these is to apply for resettlement and be resettled on farmland by government under the National Resettlement Programme (NRP). The other one is to go to AgriBank and acquire loans through the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS). Those who are given land through NRP do not pay any money whatsoever, while those who dare to go to AgriBank and get loans under AALS are getting loans which they have to pay back with interest and on top of that they are subjected to heavy punitive land tax even if the size of the land they occupy is like that of those who got the land free of charge.

This land tax, therefore, is tantamount to punishing those who dared to meet the government halfway by sacrificing themselves through getting loans from AgriBank while applauding those who got land free of charge for having done so.

This negative factor has a devastating effect on formerly disadvantaged farmers and has resulted in some of those who got loans through the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme from AgriBank to abandon their farms and return to the so-called native reserves.

Since this land tax is not contained in Chapter 3 of the Constitution of Namibia, it is in my view high time to review this issue and impose this land tax only on those who are either absentee landlords or who have unnecessary excessive land. Food production is very important and very necessary and those who are producing food must be subsidized and helped instead of being subjected to punitive land tax.

It does not really make a lot of sense to subject even the formerly disadvantaged people, who patriotically dared to sacrifice and go to AgriBank to borrow money under the AALS to meet the government halfway through buying farm land, to punitive land tax while those who are given the same farm land free of charge by the government are not subjected to similar or any other financial burdens.

One might wonder, “Why should I bother going to the AgriBank and get a loan to buy farm land and just to be punished with land tax for that while I can get the same land free of charge and be applauded for that?”

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