Budget for land reform little
The recently held four-day workshop on land reform and resettlement has called for an increase in the budget allocation to the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement in order to speed up the resettlement programme in the country.
The workshop, which ended on Sunday in the capital, was organised by the Lutheran Church in Namibia in collaboration with other civic society organisations. It was attended by over 150 delegates.
Participants noted that budget allocations for the land reform and resettlement programme was little and more money was needed if the exercise was going to be successful. They also raised concern on the prices of the targeted farms which they said were overpriced.
In a statement, participants noted: “Since independence only 293 resettlement farms were bought for N$560 million to resettle 4000 beneficiaries and government’s own estimates are that more than 200,000 Namibians have indicated the desire to access land to engage in productive agricultural activities.
“There is a complete lack of a vision for the resettlement program and land reform has been divorced from agriculture. Low budgetary allocation and “uncontrolled prices” results in Government being unable to afford the land offered on “willing seller principles.”
Speaking to the Economist, Uhuru Dempers one of the organisers of the workshop declined to say how much was needed to fund the resettlement programme saying there was need to do a proper analysis before giving a specific figure.
Dempers, however blamed farm owners for the slow progress of the land reform programme, accusing them of overpricing their farms. He said there was a need to control farm prices so that government can buy as many farms with the available resources.
“The prices are unreasonable. They need to be controlled and remember most of these farmers didn’t even buy their land but they just got it for free.
“I think government must start expropriating land from absent landlords who are sitting somewhere in Europe,” he said.
Asked whether this will not turn Namibia into another Zimbabwe, Dempers said this will be different.
“We will do it legally. We will not go and burn down a farm like what Mugabe was doing.For example, we will give the owners of unutilised land notice of expropriation and then start with negotiations.”
Meanwhile the workshop concluded that land reform seems not to be a priority of government judging from the slow progress made after independence to acquire land and resettle landless Namibians.
The workshop however agreed on a mechanism to identify unutilised or underutilised commercial farms for expropriation in terms of the provisions of the Commercial Agricultural Land Reform Act of 1995.
“Farms of “absentee landlords” will be prioritised and government pressured to expropriate those farms as already agreed at the 1991 National Land Conference and the 1994 Mariental Peoples Land Conference.”
The workshop welcomed the announcement by government that the current National Resettlement Policy will be reviewed.