The Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shaningwa has warned local authority councillors stop selling land to friends, at the same time vowing to force those owning large tracts of land to share it with landless Namibians.
Shaningwa was responding to questions posed to her during the debate of her ministry’s vote in the National Assembly on Friday afternoon, at the same time also speaking against foreigners owning land in Namibia.
“Councillors are letting us down because they are giving land to their friends … this must stop. Why is it that we can give land to ourselves but not to our people, why?” she asked.
“You do not see Namibians owning land in other countries, why should we allow it here? They [foreigners] must be subjected to leasing land just like we lease in their countries,” she said.
Shaningwa strongly spoke against landowners owning “large tracts of land”, saying: “I will take some of the land and make sure you [land owners] share with others. This time we must all share.”
She also said that together with ministerial officials she would work on ways to end the syndicates of property developers and land owners “putting up speculative prices” when selling land or houses.
“We cannot leave the price of houses in the hands of market forces, we [government] must determine the prices. I will come up with a turnaround strategy to tackle this,” she said.
Shaningwa warned those inflating land and house prices of risking a decline in their business: “We will come up with our own prices, those who stand ready to pull with us can join, those who do not want to will remain behind.”
“Why should the market forces determine prices for our people?” she said.
She also vowed to come up with a system to address the problem of a lack of serviced erven across the country.
She said government could make use of graduates from vocational training centres across the country to provide services such as servicing erven and building houses.
“We will come up with another approach. We can take VTC students and give them small jobs, by doing so we are also taking them off the streets,” she said.
She also called on the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) to stop asking upcoming entrepreneurs for collateral when they [entrepreneurs] want funding.
“It is not fair that only the big fish have access to this facility, we must stop discriminating against our young men and women,” she said.
During the debate, DTA of Namibia President McHenry Venaani called the N$330 million allocation to the mass housing development programme a “joke”.
“Next year you must come up with a more substantial budget,” he said.
He urged government to ensure that during the second phase of the programme it determines house prices instead of developers.
“The intention of the project is correct, the problem lies with the implementation. We left the speculators to determine the price. The next batch of contracts must be determined by ourselves,” said Venaani.
On foreign land ownership, Venaani said: “There is nothing wrong selling land to foreigners, but not while our own people are fighting for land.”
As for the money allocated for the mass housing programme in the current financial year, Shaningwa said: “We first need to prove ourselves before asking for more money.”