• July 13th, 2020

Opinion - Land expropriation without compensation in Namibia

Namibia is one of the world’s most unequal countries in terms of the redistribution of the economy, key of which is the disproportionately skewed distribution of land – the master means of production, despite the geographically abundant land surface area (825 000 m2 ), which is twice the size of Germany. 

This unequal status quo, which manifests in poverty, hunger, unemployment and disease, is a result of centuries of colonial exploitation and decades of apartheid plunder where black peoples of Namibia were dispossessed of their land and wealth, which included cattle by white minority settlers. 

Independence on 21 March 1990 did not bring the necessary change that a majority of dispossessed black people anticipated as per the promises during the liberation struggle and which would change their lives for the better but instead entrenched the unequal ownership patterns where the poor is reflected by majority blacks and the rich by the minority whites and a few political elites that are co-opted. 
Figures released by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) in 2018 during a national land statistics symposium in Windhoek revealed that 70% or 27, 3 million hectares of commercial farms (freehold land) remains in the hands of minority whites, including foreigners, with black people owning a paltry 16% or 6 million of the total 39 million hectares of the freehold agricultural land, and the government owning 5, 4 million hectares or 14%.

Whereas at the time of the 1st National Land Conference shortly post-independence, few thousand predominantly white Afrikaners and Germans owned 80% of freehold land in Namibia, with 12% owned by 80% of the largely black Namibian population and the rest (difference) constituted part of Communal land, State land, National Parks and Conservancies. It follows then that 30 years post-independence, as published by the NSA that 70% of land remains in the hands of few white landlords who refuse either blatantly to share the land or using loopholes such as ownership-shifting of land into corporates run by black Namibians or attaching highly inflated prices of land to undermine the Willing-Buyer Willing- Seller policy which was adopted at the said land conference and currently still in place. 

This then means (t) that the pace of land redress remains painstakingly slow, at a point of stagnation, with the Willing-Buyer Willing- Seller policy, pushing the mainly black majority populace (84%) more and more to the periphery of Namibian society, a society which claims to be inclusive yet sustaining the status quo of apartheid constructs, constructs which were designed to subjugate and oppress black Namibians politically, socially and economically. 

To break this grossly-uneven patterns of ownership and resuscitate the dignity of the black child, it is important to amend the constitution of Namibia to make it legally permissible for the state to Expropriate Land Without Compensation for equal redistribution to both blacks and whites, since the Willing-Seller – Willing buyer adopted in 1992, in the name of reconciliation at the 1st National Land Conference, did not live up to the expectations of its 20-odd resolutions which called for the systematic transfer of the land to its rightful owners, who are black Namibians, black Africans in particular.

Exacerbating this historical injustice and reality is the fact that rural-urban migration has escalated significantly over the past three decades as people, young people, in particular, move to urban areas in search of jobs and other economic opportunities since the availability of land has become a scarce commodity in their traditional surroundings, with the result an explosion of rural-urban migration which runs the risk to place a heavy burden on the already-scarce availability of land, provision of basic service like water, sanitation and access to electricity, and further worsening of the day-to-day realities of food insufficiency.

In 2018, an estimated 40% or 1 million of Namibians, almost exclusively black, of Namibia’s 2.4 million population lived in informal settlements which some have dubbed the “modern-day concentration camps”, highlighting the squalor and uninhabitable conditions of this segment of society yet for many it remains a place of what their call home. 

Expropriating land without compensation is thus indispensable not only in the radical redress of past historical injustices but will also be vital in extending land to productive forces of society, the youth cohort in particular for the utilisation in agrarian reforms - which with clear programs will yield food self-sufficiency status enough for a country with a petite population of 2.5 million yet importing more than 70% of its basic foodstuff, mainly from neighbouring South Africa.

Does this mean those who have acquired residential and business properties stand to lose custodianship of such property? No. The preoccupation of the state will be the natural land surface area with any infrastructure developed on the particular land surface area remaining the property of its owner or investor. This would mean taxes and hefty rates on land will fall away for ordinary residential dwellers as well as business erven, and those willing to utilise the land for productive purposes will be given leases of 5, 10, 15, or 20 years depending on the activity and overall contribution to state coffers and in line with developmental goals, as long as quality and significant number jobs can be guaranteed and due taxes paid to the state.

In the final analysis, Land expropriation without compensation will ultimately unlock the full agricultural potential of Namibia, which currently contributes a meagre  5.1% of the GDP of which 70% represents the output of the livestock sub-sector – by transferring productive land from the few thousand owners into the hands of hundreds of thousands of Namibians, in particular black Africans who are willing and able to work the ground, thus ensuring that optimal quality and quantity of Namibia’s agricultural potential is reached and exceeded, be it crop farming, animal husbandry or both. 

Any surplus agricultural output will contribute to needed foreign currency through means of export to foreign markets, in particular neighbouring African countries and continental Africa in general. 

*Benedick M. Louw is a Radical Economic Transformation Activist in Namibia. You can follow him on Twitter@Benedick_M_Louw 

Staff Reporter
2020-05-29 09:48:35 | 1 months ago

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