The Ministry of Land Reform has expressed concern that illegal fencing remains rife in communal areas, a practice that denies the less privileged access to land.
Spokesman for the Ministry of Land Reform Chrispin Matongela says fairness by traditional authorities in land allocation in communal areas is cause for concern among many citizens as unfair land allocations tend to trigger conflict.
Matongela also reiterated that by law, subleasing is allowed only with the written consent from the line minister, although it is not allowed in the first year of resettlement. He said the ministry does regular monitoring to assess the level of subleasing.
“However, the bottom-line is that subleasing defeats the purpose of land reform if it is allowed to perpetuate at an alarming rate. Subleasing of farming units – although it is allowed if one follows the right procedure – this anomaly defeats the objective of the programme,” Matongela noted.
He said the resettlement programme, as per the mandate of the Ministry of Land Reform, which is to manage, administer and ensure equitable access to Namibia’s land resources – is being fulfilled within the parameters of the law. “Secondly, we should also understand that the land sector is a very emotive issue.
“Therefore, for us to redress all the injustice perpetrated for almost 106 years will need careful backward and forward management.
“Furthermore, as a ministry, we’re not in control of the products (land) which we have to redistribute. The market dictates. Therefore, based on that understanding we’ve done very well, bearing in mind that Namibia is an arid country and not every piece of land can be utilised for our intended purpose,” he remarked.
He said the current land law (the Agricultural Commercial Land Reform Act of 1995) is subordinate to the land reform programme, as it is difficult to accelerate land acquisition in order to respond to the land needs.
Matongela says the cost of acquiring farms is too high. With the State’s first right of refusal the assumption is that this provision distorts the market, as it creates an artificial monopoly and allows farmers to increase their prices considerably with a view that government always has money to pay, he stated, adding that once a farm has been acquired by government, there is always the issue of the farmworkers, who need to be considered for resettlement, especially the generational farmworkers.
“Do these former farmworkers really need land, or perhaps what they need is an income to sustain themselves? How best can government address their plight? Does the solution lie in resettlement land allocation or elsewhere? How can we through land reform accommodate the interests of those who need and are able to farm and those who only need land for shelter?” he queried.
He says the challenge remains whether the criteria really address the core problem of land demand and need, and who really needs to be resettled, while querying whether is it the low, middle-income or the rich.
“But some beneficiaries need a piece of land, which they can call their home. The people being resettled on such commercial land need to contribute to the economic activities of the country and subsequently to poverty reduction. But the experience is very worrisome, either people don’t want to work, or they are wrong candidates for the programme.
“The question is, if resettlement beneficiaries are not living up to the expectations of the programme, should such farming units be withdrawn? And how will this action be viewed by the Namibian people? he asked.
Post-settlement support needs to be intensified, but again some farms received significant government investment, but the full utilisation of such farming infrastructure has been a challenge. He maintains that compensation when land rights are lost due to development needs could be improved significantly.
”Big companies, especially construction companies, get millions of dollars of tenders from government, but they in return pay little to the owners of land when, for example, extracting gravel from poor communities. This is another effort to reduce poverty in rural areas if it could be properly managed,” he noted.