Continued sale of land to foreigners confusing
By Nico Smit
Treasurer General of the Popular Democratic Movement
The Popular Democratic Movement is perplexed by the continued sale of local farm lands to foreigners. While Namibia may be vast in size relative to its population, large chunks of land in Namibia are either dessert or not conducive to agricultural activity.
It is therefore confusing that while it is well documented that the Ministry of Land Reform has encountered significant difficulty in implementing the “willing buyer – willing seller” model, primarily due to a lack of willing sellers, even if accounting for the high prices at which land is offered to the Ministry, the Ministry still continues to negotiate with foreigners and consent to the sale of scarce agricultural and farm land to foreigners. And this at a time when Namibian’s need for productive arable agricultural land is plain for all to see.
As has been widely reported in the local media, the Ministry of Land Reform is considering a proposal by a Russian national who already owns 28,000 hectares of land. The current proposal under consideration by the Ministry of Land Reform would see this Russian national purchase an additional 18,000 hectares of land, meaning he would amass a grand total of 46,000 hectares of Namibian land.
What reasonable justification is there for allowing that amount of Namibian land to sit in the hands of one foreigner when the land needs of Namibians are plain for all to see? Additionally, what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that if Ministerial consent is granted and the sale goes through, this land will not once again sit in the hands of a foreigner who would never be a willing seller under the willing seller-willing buyer programme?
Or if at all, that such sale would not be at such a high price that the purchase of that land would be beyond the scope of the Ministry of Land Reforms financial capacity?
What is even more surprising is that a proposal is being considered that would see a foreign national possibly own 46,000 hectares of agricultural land while the Ministry of Land Reform is in the final stages of finalising legislative amendments that would limit farm sizes to a maximum of 12,000 hectares. That limitation cannot simply mean that one person is then permitted to buy multiple farms the total size of which far exceeds the proposed cap.
The Popular Democratic Movement believes that the continued sale of land to foreigners is counter-productive and will ultimately defeat all the well-intentioned policies and programmes of the Ministry of Land Reform. Namibia will only begin to address the land problem once we take a strong stand against the sale of agricultural and farm land to foreigners.
In particular, in view of the proposed Second Land Conference; it would be best to place a moratorium on the sale of agricultural and farm land to foreigners until such a time as the Namibian people have been granted a fair opportunity to clearly express themselves on issues pertaining to foreign land ownership.