• June 7th, 2020

Foreign land ownership in the context of Erindi

After protracted liberation struggle, apartheid colonial rule came to an end and those of us who were in exile fighting against colonial oppression happily returned to our motherland.  

Although the process of change was felt, I knew something very important has not been resolved as land and natural resources remained in the ownership of those who benefited from apartheid.

Facts right in front of our eyes are that land and property expropriations by colonialists has left many Namibians, especially blacks, in poverty and misery.
Many Namibians remain landless in their own country to this point.

Namibia is ancestral land of the indigenous people, but the peace of mind of the land dispossessed remains a pipedream.

That foreigners still own land in Namibia while many locals are without a shred of it is a displeasingh irony.

There remain difficult legal, political and economic challenges hampering the government to easily achieve its objectives regarding availing land to the citizens.

Right now we are reading in the papers that a Mexican billionaire is set to become the owner of the 71000 hectare Erindi Private Game Reserve.  

This land is bigger than some of the so-called native reserves into which thousands of black people were forcefully driven and where they are still living today.  

What also surprises me is that Erindi was apparently considered (by whom?) to be unsuitable for resettlement purposes.  But historically, we know that a part of the farms that are consisting of Erindi was under Chief Maharero’s authority, while the other part was under the authority of Chief Zeraeua.  

This big area was inhabited by many people who were successfully farming with thousands of cattle, goats, sheep, horses and donkeys until it was expropriated by heartless colonialists.  The area covered by Erindi Game Reserve is, indeed, far better than some areas in Erongo Region, Aminius, flood plains in Zambezi Region and some areas in the southern part of the country.  

If people could be resettled in those areas, what makes Erindi any different?
The suggestion that Erindi is unsuitable for resettlement might be void of any truth and our President should not be misled by these cheap tricks.

The whole area constituting farming land in Erindi is where very rich Ovaherero people such as Piriko, Munee, Kapiringi, Mbuaondjou and others were living.  Puriko was the father of Kanako and Kanako was the father of Zemburuka who was the father of Zeraeua the family in which I was born.  

One of the places in that area is Ongombe ya Navita Orukoze, where Kaura, the great-grand father of Katuutire Kaura was born.  My great-grand father Tjiriange was also living and is buried in one of the farms which is in the same vicinity. 

Therefore, the people who are underestimating that area do not know how good that area was and still is.  It is against the abovementioned facts that those who bought that land from Imperial Cold Storage and Supply Company (ICS) did not buy it from the rightful owners but from colonisers since they themselves came from South Africa, which colonised our country and its people.   

Restorative justice can never be achieved by allowing foreigners who purchase the land from colonisers to sell it to other foreigners.

Government may persist in its refusal to give a waiver to those sellers of land who have no interest of the wellbeing of the country and its people and who are hell bent to unreasonably inflate the prices of land.  It is now high time that our liberation struggle enters its final and critical juncture – the final restitution of our land and thus brings the struggle to its triumphant close.  I am confident and trust our effective and committed triumvirate leaders that they will successfully end this final phase of our struggle.

I was pleased to read in New Era on 5 June 2019 that “The government – which has the last say in whether the Erindi private game reserve is sold by its South African owners to Mexican billionaire Alberto Bailléres – has quashed insinuation that it has approved the deal.”  

These revelations and reaction by the government are timely and important to ease the worries and concerns of the Namibian people about the perceived or intended selling of the Erindi to foreigners.
We surely have to welcome foreign investors in our country and be kind to them.  The investment atmosphere must be good and attractive.   However, when it concerns the land, which is our precious inheritance, they should not be allowed to purchase it even if that land is presently owned by foreigners.  

They can use the land only on the basis and principles of usufruct.  Usufruct simply put, means temporary right of use and enjoyment of property belonging to third party, short of destruction or waste of its substance.  We should also not give such land for 99 years as what has happened with the contract between the government and the Russian billionaire. 
Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange is a former Cabinet minister of Namibia.

Staff Reporter
2019-06-14 10:48:40 | 11 months ago

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