Erindi sale stumbles
The sale of the world-renowned private game reserve Erindi is likely to be a drawn-out legal battle between the Joubert family and the government.
At the center of the brewing legal wrangle is whether or not Erindi, valued at N$1.3 billion by its owners, should be sold under the provisions of the Land Reform Act after government expressed interest in buying the 65,000 hectare private game reserve that was put up for sale last year.
According to sources privy to the negotiations, the government insists that the game reserve should be acquired under the Agricultural Commercial Land Reform Act 6 of 1995, something that the owners of Erindi are not happy about. This week, Gert Joubert, the majority shareholder of Erindi said the game reserve should not be classified under the Land Reform Act. Despite what he termed confusion from both parties over the classification of Erindi, Joubert said even the Minister of Lands and Resettlement had acknowledged in a recent meeting that “Erindi is not another goat farm in Keetmanshoop, it is something special.”
He said he will not accept any offer under the Land Reform Act because as far as he is concerned, Erindi does not qualify under that Act.
“We don’t think Erindi can go through a land reform process; my personal view is that it doesn’t qualify under the Land Reform Act. There is a lot of confusion at this stage from both parties, but there is no confusion as to the expressed interest.
“I am not sure myself what the correct procedure is. Nobody can blame me and nobody can blame the government because this has never happened before; there is no example. The only example is in South Africa where the government bought the 13,000 hectare Mala Mala private game reserve for a billion Rand and Zuma himself handed over the cheque and the people were dancing.”
Joubert said when the Land Reform Act was written, drafters of the legislation did not think of Erindi. “The Land Reform Act doesn’t strictly apply to Erindi.” In the meantime, Joubert said he has received a written offer for the game reserve from lawyers representing undisclosed private buyers in South Africa, adding that two other clients, including one from the United States of America, have also expressed interest in buying Erindi. But despite the interest, Joubert says the government should be the natural buyer of Erindi. “I am waiting for the government to come to the table and we can discuss. If they don’t want Erindi I have got other buyers, but in my mind I think government is going to end up buying Erindi. Maybe this can be the start of a Public Private Partnership since we have the expertise to manage Erindi on behalf of the government. If the government wants to use Erindi management to sell their game I can guarantee them N$200 million every year.”
Joubert said the problem with selling Erindi under the Land Reform Act is that the government, without proper due diligence, can only offer him a price which is much lower than the actual value of the property. “I am going to say this with the biggest respect, their [government] evaluators have never done anything like Erindi before so you have to bear in mind that if you have to do something for the first time, there is a margin for error and that is why I have to bring in my own evaluators.“Now under the Land Reform Act I am locked in. Even if I am unhappy, the government can offer me any price and to get something acceptable we have to go through the Land Tribunal and if I am still unhappy we go to court. Now we are talking years and millions of Rands, I don’t want to go that way. “I don’t want to embarrass myself or the government with court cases. I must take them to the Supreme Court and the story is all over the newspapers then it is bad publicity for Namibia and bad publicity for me, no I would rather leave it. “If we can’t come to an agreement as far as the price is concerned, I am not going to sell, it is as simple as that.”