afrol News, 26 February - The Namibian government has announced the start of an "acceleration of land reform" in the country, which will included the forced expropriation of commercial farms. The scheme is mainly designed to buy off white land owners and redistribute the land to poor landless black.
Theo-Ben Gurirab, Namibia's Prime Minister, yesterday announced that the government had endorsed a policy of "expropriating a selected number of farms in Namibia for resettlement." This was to be done closely in accordance with the constitution and "against the payment of just compensation" for expropriated farmers.
According to the Namibian Prime Minister, current legislation included two options for land reform and redistribution. Until now, government had followed "the willing-seller-willing-buyer approach." Since 1995, Namibian Dollars (N$) 20 million had been provided for in annual appropriation to purchase land, and this amount had since been increased to N$ 50 million each year, Mr Gurirab said.
Committed to seeing through the willing-seller approach, government had "witnessed with dismay and outrage how farm workers are left destitute and dumped with their families and belongings on the roadsides by their former employers," said the Namibian Prime Minister. Many farm labourers had lost what had been their home for generations, he added.
- Over the years, government has come to realise that the willing-seller-willing-buyer approach is cumbersome and as a result, it would not be able to keep up with the high public demand for agricultural land, said Mr Gurirab. "The process has become too slow because of arbitrary inflated land price and the unavailability of productive land."
According to the Prime Minister, more than 240,000 landless Namibians are currently awaiting resettlement. Therefore, the government had now decided to enhance land reform by also turning to forced expropriations, against due payment.
During the last months, tension has increased among poor rural Namibians, some being eager to follow the Zimbabwean example of farm occupations. Prime Minister Gurirab however warned land owners and the landless "to exercise patience and not to engage in unlawful actions during the implementation of the land reform process." The government insisted it was to "complete this exercise in a legal, stable, transparent and peaceful manner."
A step towards an acceleration of land reform in Namibia has been expected as the Windhoek government lately has signalled dissatisfaction with the speed of land redistribution. For the SWAPO government and a majority of Namibians, land redistribution from the descendents of the country's colonialists to the black majority is an important ideological issue, connected to Namibia's long fight against apartheid and colonialism.
The Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), which organises the country's white commercial farmers, today said it had taken notice of the Prime Minister's announcement on the acceleration of the land reform. The Union in a press release cautioned the white farm owners, saying they "must not over-react" to the announcement to maintain "the peace and stability of Namibia."
NAU however maintained that the willing-seller approach should not be seen as a failure, emphasising that already, "about 10 percent or 700 farms of the commercial land has been transferred to historically disadvantaged Namibians." The Union also stated its concern over "the absence of clear criteria on the selection of farms to be expropriated."
According to reports today in 'The Namibian', the country's leading independent daily, it is still not clear how many farms are to be expropriated and when exactly the process is to start. But, sources had told 'The Namibian' that eight farms - among them conflict spots Ongombo West, Krumhuk and Kalkpan - had already been identified for initial expropriation.
The Namibian daily had gotten mixed comments when asking for comments on the government decision. Some people dismissed the announcement as "electioneering" by the ruling SWAPO party. Others had thought it was a threat to force commercial farmers into selling their farms at low prices.
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