Is Namibia’s agricultural land for sale or for long term lease?
The recently signed 99-year agricultural land lease agreement by the Namibian government with the Russian billionaire Rashid Sardarov has without a doubt exposed the country to a lot of more foreign agricultural land ownership scrambles, which, if not handled properly and urgently, could open up the country to the highest bidder or assumed investors.
Sardarov, through his company Comsar Properties, in an approved private transaction purchased four additional farms measuring a combined 17,000 hectares for N$43 million dollars from two Namibian willing sellers in the Khomas Region. This latest acquisition is in addition to the three other farms that he had initially acquired in 2014. This development effectively now gives him control of seven Namibian farms, with a combined size of more than 45,000 hectares of prime land on the edge of the capital city, Windhoek.
This specific situation of the 99-year agricultural land lease agreement although not factored in now could have a fundamental developmental impact on the urbanisation expansions plans of the City of Windhoek at a potentially higher cost to the city or the entire region in the next 60 to 80 years. That’s however a matter for those that will be around in the next 70 to 80 years from now.
I will not for the purpose of this article dwell in detail on the relevant sections of the Agricultural Land Reform Act of 1995 and related that pertains to the sell and acquisition of agricultural land to a foreign national but will merely focus on just three very interesting but important points which I picked up from the recent press interview of the Minister of Land Reform as was aired on NBC National radio on the 19th of October 2018.
It should however be accepted and respected at this juncture that the current Agricultural Land Reform Act of 1995 does give the Minister of Land Reform the prerogative to grant within the prescribed laws the right to either approve or decline certain agricultural land applications. With that said, the condition to however grant the Russian a 99-year agricultural land lease duration period is another matter altogether which in my opinion needs further deliberations and careful re-considerations as it could open up a whole lot of possibilities with appealing conditions to lease Namibia out to any eligible wealthy foreigner.
The Minister of land Reform, Mr. Utoni Nujoma after a detailed explanation of the procedure followed to eventually grant the go ahead for this specific agricultural land lease deal stated three very important points which in my view should be accepted at face value. And they are as follows:
1) That Cabinet was consulted of the entire transaction process on several occasions;
The involvement of Cabinet in this specific land application process is a very critical aspect in terms of broad procedural transparency and collective decision making but what eventually transpired is that they played more of an advisory role leaving the last decision to be taken by the Minister of Land Reform as per the relevant sections of the Agricultural Land Reform Act of 1995. What is however not clear is what role did Cabinet play on the condition of granting a 99-year lease duration period to the Russian. That’s however a matter for another day.
However, this 99-year land lease deal agreement that was deliberately signed 2 days before the 2nd National Land Conference now expose the Namibian Government in making land deals that are in contrary to the laws of the country and further against the resolutions of the land conference.
How the Namibian government is going to restore these deals and others relative to the recently resolved land conference resolutions will be of great interest.
2) That the Ministry of Land Reform did not at the time have the necessary financial means to purchase the four farms.
The Minister of Land Reform repeatedly stated during his media interview on the 19th of October 2018 that the Ministry of Land Reform did not have the necessary financial means at the time to acquire the four farms and due to that and taking into account the additional due process followed that he then eventually allowed the Russian billionaire to purchase and lease back the four additional farms for 99 years from the Namibian Government albeit on certain conditions.
This specific admission then made me realize that the main reason to approve this deal is actually due to the dismal financial position of the Ministry of Land Reform which if accepted at face value could expose going forward a precedence of leasing Namibia out to wealthy foreigners for many years at the disadvantage to the poor indigenous inhabitants.
3) That he has been trying to have the Agricultural Land Reform Act of 1995 to be amended but to no avail as his appeal has being ignored.
Last but not least, the Minister’s repeated call to his colleagues to have the Agricultural Land Reform Act of 1995 amended accordingly speaks volume exposing an element of disunity and perhaps delay tactics which if not intercepted soonest could leave the country critically exposed to once again become a colony to wealthy foreign individuals.
In conclusion, this specific agricultural land deal and its related impact are actually bigger than what it looks like of which a wholistic legislative review and reform is actually needed before the nation is gradually sold or leased off completely to the disadvantaged of the masses.
Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian Socio-Economist who strongly believes in the nation’s vision 2030 development agenda
New Era Reporter
2018-10-26 09:23:10 8 months ago