WINDHOEK – In what could signal a new détente between the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank), and Previously Disadvantaged Namibian [PDN] commercial farmers, the farmers last Thursday met the board directors of the bank’s Credit and Investment Committee, chaired by Dr. Michael Humavindu, in a closed door meeting.
Full details of the meeting has not yet been released as but the farmers grapevine has it that it was cordial and groundbreaking. If followed up, it could lay the necessary foundation for the beginning of a common understanding and fruitful engagement between the two parties, over issues of mutual concern for both the bank’s management and the farmers.
The delegation of nine farmers is led by the interim chairperson of the PDN’s Commercial Farmers Forum, Jane Kuhanga. For the umpteenth time, farmers are believed to have clarified their concerns to the bank’s board.
Meanwhile, understandably the farmers have also decided to form a union to coordinate their efforts in dealing with the challenges confronting them. Also in their sustained efforts to have their complaints heard, regarding the vexed questions of arrears on the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme [AALS], the farmers once again have re-petitioned the Ministry of Finance. Reiterating their constant demands, which are by no means new to both this ministry, and Agribank, the last that was on the eve of the 28th independence anniversary when they marched in the streets of the capital to deliver the petition to both these institutions. Among their pleas with the ministry, is for the government to immediately reinstate its guarantee and subsidy to AALS farmers “to continue to protect the integrity of land reform and redistribution under the scheme”.
Disturbed and disappointed by the discretionary summarily removal of the government guarantee and subsidy to Affirmative Action Loan Scheme farmers by the Ministry of Finance about ten years ago, they laments further pleading with the ministry for the government to review the current scheme to extend the repayment period of loans for the purchase of agricultural land to a maximum of 33 years. And to review AALS “to reduce the interest rate paid on the purchase of agricultural land to zero”.
The farmers are also begging government for its intervention in stopping Agribank’s legal actions against them, pending a comprehensive review of AALS and that it prevails upon Agribank to intervene in stopping the bank from dragging them to court. The farmers are further seeking own representation at the envisaged 2nd National Land Conference in October to present their own position paper. Despite still feeling the trauma of the brutal inhumanities against their ancestors by both German and racist white South African regimes because of their land and the continuing burden of land dispossession, they appreciate the land reform programme and AALS as one of the policy instruments in which a just restitution and redistribution of land can be effected.
The farmers are also hence committed to land reform and redistribution as envisaged under the Harambee Prosperity Plan and other relevant government policies “towards an all inclusive Namibian house”. They are further disheartened by support for them as AALS clients and note discrimination against them compared to resettlement programme beneficiaries.
Amidst all these, the famers are nevertheless conscious of their contractual obligations to Agribank in terms of their loans with its fully and unconditionally conditions are right also noting their concern with “some public officials using their positions to create confusion and near chaos in a manner reflecting badly on the good trajectory that the GRN and the current Head of State has set in motion, especially on this emotive issue of land, prejudicial to the outcome of the pending 2nd National Land Conference later this year”.