Previously advantaged communities still own more than 27 million hectares of land in Namibia, while the previously disadvantaged own only 9.3 million hectares.
Resettlement farmers today own about 3.2 million hectares of farmland in Namibia, while government research centres own some 6 million hectares of the total 37.5 million hectares.
These figures were presented yesterday when members of the Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU) participated in a debate on land reform at the 70th annual congress of the Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU) in Windhoek.
The figures – derived from all title deeds registered at the Title Deeds Office, Agribank and in Government Gazettes – also reveal that government is a mere 1.9 million hectares short of accomplishing its target of acquiring 5 million hectares for the resettlement of landless Namibians.
The statistics were derived from an intensive study undertaken by the NAU since 2006 and updated until June this year. The figures show a huge surge in previously disadvantaged people acquiring farmland since 2012, while a noticeable reduction of previously advantaged buyers were recorded over the same period.
This happened against the background of the Ministry of Land Reform doubling its 2015/16 financial budget for acquiring farmland in an effort to accelerate the pace of land redistribution. The ministry received N$807 million from the national budget for the year to the end of March 2016 for the purchase of commercial agricultural land – more than double the amount allocated for the same purpose in the previous financial year.
With the increase, the amount that government spends annually to purchase commercial agricultural land will have multiplied 16-fold in the span of five years.
In the latest three-year medium term expenditure framework it is stated that 416 000 hectares are to be bought with the N$854,8 million earmarked for the ministry’s land reform programme during the 2015/16 financial year.
If as much farmland is bought as planned, it would represent a substantial acceleration of government’s land reform programme and would underscore the growing importance that government has accorded land reform as a budget priority over the past decade.
Out of the N$854 million allocated to the land reform programme, which encompasses the purchase, valuation, allocation and administration of land, N$807 million is meant to buy land for resettlement purposes, it was indicated in government’s main budget for 2015/16 and the latest development budget prepared by the National Planning Commission.
Government’s budget for the purchase of land has shown a sharp increase over the past four years.
The current projection is that N$462 million is to be allocated for the purchase of commercial farmland for resettlement during this financial year, while N$379 million is to be spent for the same purpose during the 2017/18 financial year.
From 2003 to 2012, government allocated N$50 million of the country’s national budget for the purchase of land for the land reform and resettlement programme each year.
That was an increase of 150 percent on the annual land purchase budget of N$20 million that had been part of government’s spending plans from 1996 to 2002.
The land purchase budget increased to N$91 million in the 2012/13 financial year, N$101,7 million in 2013/14, and N$370 million in 2014/15. The Ministry of Land Reform’s total budget of N$1,07 billion during 2015/16 is 82 percent higher than its budget of N$590 million in the 2014/15 financial year – which was already significantly higher than its budget allocation of N$302 million in 2013/14.
According to the ministry’s strategic plan announced two years ago, government planned to buy 77 000 hectares of land (roughly 15 farms of about 5 000 hectares each) during the 2013/14 financial year, 64 000 hectares during the following financial year and 50 000 hectares during the 2015/2016 fiscal year.
The ministry also indicated at the time that it had a target of acquiring 2,5 million hectares of farmland for the land reform and resettlement programme.
Ten years ago, Namibia’s national budget envisaged total government spending of N$12,8 billion during the 2005/06 fiscal year. The then Ministry of Lands and Resettlement was allocated N$48,8 million in that year’s budget, which represented about 0,38% of total government expenditure during 2005/06.
With its increased share of the national budget, the Ministry of Land Reform has now overtaken several other budget votes that previously received a bigger slice of the national budget than the land reform ministry did.
The Land Reform Act introduced in 1995 established a legal framework for the acquisition of land by the State for resettlement purposes, following the so-called “willing buyer-willing seller” principle.
In accordance with this principle, commercial farmers who are willing to sell their ranches should first offer them to the government.
Thereafter, an official commission visits the farm to decide whether or not to buy, depending on the quality and suitability of the land for resettlement purposes.
While the Commercial Land Reform Act provides a complex framework within which the then Ministry of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (MLRR) developed a general resettlement scheme for the poorest communal farmers, the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme offers a good opportunity for the wealthiest livestock owners within communal areas to become commercial farmers.
The total of 243 000 Namibians who potentially qualify for resettlement was established by the Ministry of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (MLRR, 2001) by aggregating the following communities: members of the San people, ex-fighters of PLAN, SWATF and Koevoet armies, ex-refugees and returnees, disabled people and inhabitants of overpopulated communal areas.