• August 18th, 2019
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Inside the multi-billion Russian farm deal

WINDHOEK – For the umpteenth time, government yesterday moved to clarify and strongly defend its decision to lease four farms, measuring 17 385 hectares, to a Russian company that intends on investing billions into infrastructure, conservation and jobs.

The farms, acquired from private owners and purchased with the investor’s money, have already been donated to government as part of the deal to lease them back to Comsar Properties SA, the Russian company.
The farms did not belong to the state but to two private entities, but government now owns it after back and forth negotiations with Comsar.

Originally it was a private transaction between Comsar and Rainhoff Farming (Pty) Ltd, which owned three of the farms, and Wolffsgrund Farm CC, government got involved after the Russian investor sought consent from government to purchase the farms as per Agricultural Land Reform Act.

This answers the question held by many as to how government got involved in what would have ordinarily been a private transaction between the farms’ owners and Comsar.

Comsar initially proposed in 2017 that if granted permission to buy the farms, it would donate N$24 million to government to develop football in the country and to buy two farms for resettlement purposes.

Comsar also proposed to renovate two rural school. The initial proposal was dismissed in totality, prompting negotiations that led to the current deal where the farms have to be bought by Comsar and be donated to government.
What seems to have further irked many observers was that the lease agreement is 99-years long.

Under historic common law, the longest possible term of a lease of real property was 99 years. While this law is no longer used in most common law jurisdictions today,  99-year leases continue to be common as a matter of business practice and conventional wisdom.

Minister of Land Reform Utoni Nujoma, accompanied his Information and Communication Technology counterpart Stanley Simataa, yesterday defended the deal.

“This deal will make a direct and much needed investment of over N$1 billion in tourism, nature conservation, hospitalities and other associated business,” Nujoma told the fully backed media conference.
The lands minister has been under fire in recent weeks over the deal, with much of the criticism seemingly based on lack of information among his critics.

Nujoma said the investment will commence immediately and during this month already, a number of persons will be recruited in order to start the development on the said farms.

“The tourism sector will also benefit in that there will be a steep growth in the Russian tourism market in Namibia, and tourism coming to Namibia will inject much-needed money into our economy,” he stresses.
“Income tax and other taxes will also be paid to the State by Comsar,” he added.

Nujoma also moved to clarify his remarks when he said his signature pertaining to the deal was forged.
He said the remark was based on Affirmative Repositioning’s allegation last week that government money was used to purchase the farms on behalf of Comsar.

“While rejecting the allegations by AR to the effect that it was in possession of documents showing that government’s money was used to purchase the four farms, I stated that if such documents exist, then they may not be authentic,” he explained.
Nujoma said he signed all prescribed documents necessary to transfer the farms into government’s ownership.

“The farms are now registered as properties of the government of Namibia,” he told journalists, adding that Comsar, and not government, paid for the farms.

Nujoma said it was government that insisted, as part of the deal, that Comsar buys the farms and transfer them into government ownership through donation if the purchase was to be approved.
Nujoma also said that the agreement is for the Russian company to employ 15 children of the liberation struggle along with many other people.

“Because of the rampant unemployment particularly amongst the youth around the Dordabis community, they should establish a tannery and recruit from such communities with due regard to available skills and qualifications,” he said.
He added that the deal was a legal one and has passed the vigorous vetting processes of Cabinet and the Attorney-General and with consideration of the provisions of the the State Finance Act that allows treasury to accept donations on behalf of government and the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act.



Kuzeeko Tjitemisa
2018-10-24 09:10:10 9 months ago

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