Namibian to sharpen land expropriation rules

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Namibia will expropriate land owned by foreign absentee landlords and will redefine fair compensation in the coming months, the country’s president said Friday.

President Hage Geingob made the promise at the conclusion of the south African nation’s national conference.

“Current landowners must make more land available for sale and not only barren land. The conference gave us a clear mandate to proceed with expropriation of land owned by absentee Landlords, as well as underutilised land,” he said.

“We will unpack and define just compensation in order to deal with the stumbling blocks we experienced in the past.

Enabling legislation and policies will accompany this process in the coming months.” Geingob said.

Expropriation with fair compensation, will moderate land prices, and will consequentially make government’s land acquisition program more sustainable, he said.

The president warned that land reform must be carried out in an orderly fashion and within the confines of the constitution.

“We are enjoined by our constitution to redress injustices of the past. Expropriation of land to redress past injustices, or in the public interest, is not unconstitutional,” he said.

Concerns around access to land can be resolved through the legal reform of policies and laws, the president added.

“Our constitution permits expropriation, whether the owner is willing to sell or not. What the constitution does not permit is arbitrary deprivation of property,” he added.

Geingob assured investors not to panic and that the law which protects property rights will be respected.

“Let me reassure you that Namibia remains committed to maintaining and improving the business and investment environment. However, we cannot allow inequality to prevail at the expense of retaining the status quo,” he said.

A report tabled at the national land conference this week said 995 000 people out of Namibia’s total population of 2.4 million live in informal settlements.

“The situation in informal settlements constitutes a national humanitarian crisis. There is no other way to look at it,” the president said.

A government report issued two weeks ago by the national statistics agency said white commercial farmers own 70 percent of commercial farmland in Namibia.

“I wish to speak directly to white Namibians. You will have heard some emotional sentiments expressed at this conference and wondered whether you are safe or welcome. This is your country,” The Namibian president said.

“You are Namibians. As Namibians, we all have rights, but we must never forget our duties and obligations to fellow Namibians. There is no expectation that you must feel guilty for the colonial and racist brutality of the past. The expectation is that you acknowledge that those brutal policies benefited some to the disadvantage of the majority,” Geingob said.

Namibia, which was ruled by colonial Germany and then apartheid South Africa until 1990, has large swathes of agricultural land, as well as major diamond and platinum mining industries.

German nationals own 141 out of 281 farms which belong to foreign nationals, statistics revealed by land reform ministry show.