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Land Bill to unleash rural potential

2022-06-30  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Land Bill to unleash rural potential

Land reform minister Calle Schlettwein has moved to debunk assertions that foreigners under the draft Land Bill will be allowed to lease communal land for 99 years, saying no foreigner, nor Namibian, can own land under a freehold title on communal land. 

Schlettwein, speaking in the National Assembly on Tuesday, clarified that freehold title and ownership in towns and cities is allowed. He cautioned that misinformation, unethical reporting and lack of fact verification from the public members did not only bring public incitement but have the potential to bring undesired consequences in the country. “The current Land Bill is trying to ensure that foreigners be allowed to partner with our citizens to unleash the potential in the communal areas, in the lease agreement which protects both the citizen, investor and the financier. The Bill is trying to attract banks to be able to invest in the communal areas,” said Schlettwein.

He said freehold ownership is not possible for green schemes as they still form part of communal land.

His clarification will come as music to the ears of among others Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) member of parliament (MP) McHenry Venaani, who said that giving away communal land to foreigners is not a solution but rather a disappointment to the black community. Venaani said his party rejects the notion of ownership of communal land by foreigners.

Schlettwein said section 32 of the Land Bill restricts the acquisition of customary land rights by foreign nationals who cannot enter into any agreement with any person who holds a customary land right without written prior approval from the minister. 

“What is interesting is that the author deliberately isolated section 32 and section 39 from his writing, which deals with restriction on acquisition of customary land rights by foreign nationals and restriction of leasehold by foreigners respectively,” said Schlettwein.

Although the emphasis is on communal areas, Schlettwein said the current Agricultural Commercial) Land Reform Act, Act No. 6 of 1995, does not totally forbid foreigners from owning agricultural (commercial) land.

He said that while freehold titles cannot be used to possess land in communal areas, Namibia does allow for the granting of various rights, including leaseholds, customary land rights, and occupational land rights in the case of institutions that provide public services.

This, according to Schlettwein, is also provided for under Section 19 and 36 A of the Communal Land Reform Act, Act No 5 of 2002 and the Communal Land Reform Amendment Act, No 13 of 2013.

“Investors have transformed the traditionally underutilised State land in Aussenkehr into immense production. 

“This Aussenkehr example is self-outstanding, especially in the agriculture sector and it is good if it can be replicated to other unproductive lands in the country. It is for the same purpose the Land Bill is promoting to unleash the economic potential of the communal areas. It is protecting the land owners, the investment and financiers,” he said.

Outlining the process of land allocation in communal areas, Schlettwein said the process starts with the identification of a certain land in the communal area and can only be further processed to a respective communal land board after the concerned traditional authority has recommended such user rights and has given its consent to the respective land board. 

“The current arrangement in the Communal Land Reform Act under Section 31 is that any leasehold below 10 years with a land size below 100 hectares can be approved by a particular communal land board in the regions,” he said.

However; according to Schlettwein, leases which exceed 10 years and the land size involved is above 100 hectares are recommended by the boards to the minister for approval. 

“I must emphasise here that, it is not and has never been the practice of government to impose leaseholds and foreign investors upon local communities on communal land. In all cases, traditional authorities are the main drivers by exercising their power of primary land allocation,” he told lawmakers.

A good example Schlettwein said is the Northcote Private School in Oshikoto region funded by foreign investors. 

“The investors of this project commenced with the actual development prior to authorisation by the minister. There has been pressure from the region where the ministry is seen of not being sensitive towards regional development, despite the investors having followed the laid procedures,” he said. 

Currently, he said some proposed major agricultural projects, could not take off to date, especially in the Zambezi region due to an impasse where the project proponents applied for a 99 years lease period while the government is of the view that a standard period of 25 years with an option for renewal is viable. 

Caption (Calle Leasehold) 


2022-06-30  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

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