The Affirmative Repositioning (AR), the only genuine leftist movement at the forefront of addressing landlessness and housing challenges in Namibia - on behalf of citizens and land activists submitted to the National Assembly on 18 March 2019 during a #MarchForLand demonstration and again resubmitted on 23 June 2020 “The Land Indigenization Bill” for the decisive legislation to solve the land question at a legislative level.
‘The Land Indigenization Bill’ seeks to “provide for the indigenization of the land; to fulfill the directive of Article 16 (1) of the Namibian Constitution in relation to the regulation or prohibition or regulation of the right to acquire property by persons who are not Namibian citizens; to restore the dignity of the landless and oppressed masses of our people as it relates to land as a master means of production; to reaffirm and provide practical meaning to Article 1 (2) by giving the power over the control and ownership of the land onto the hands of the people of Namibia.”
In the “consensus of the conference” document subsequent to the first historic land conference held 24 June 1991 – 1st July 1991 in Windhoek, a general consensus of land injustice emerged concluding “that there was injustice concerning the acquisition of land in the past and that something practicable must be done to rectify the situation.”
Furthermore, the consensus document in recognising the gross land injustices, resolved amongst its 24 resolutions “that foreigners should not be allowed to own farmland, but should be given the right to use and develop it on a leasehold basis in accordance with Namibia’s ‘open door’ policy towards foreign investment” and that “the constitutional principle of affirmative action is best served by giving priority to Namibians who need to own farmland”.
The second national and conference held from 1st – 5th October 2018 in Windhoek, amidst threats of national protests by young people over the issue of urban land, equally resolved as outlined second and immediately after the first resolution of the abolishment of the Willing Buyer – Willing Seller Principle’ on its list of forty resolutions (topical issues), of the need to expropriate foreign-owned land - albeit with just compensation.
Sadly, 30 years post-independence, the Namibian homeland continues to be carved up and sold to foreign landlords, not necessarily to the highest bidder, at most for peanuts bearing in mind the social, cultural and spiritual value that’s often excluded when the economic value of land is determined- creating a situation where foreigners continue to own large tracts of land at the expense of majority landless black Namibians. This unholy situation keeps on being annunciated as demonstrated by the recent sale of Erindi, a 72 000-hectare Private Game Reserve to Mexican billionaire Alberto Baillères and the sale of several farms measuring 28 000 hectares to a Russian oligarch, Rashid Sardarov.
In a letter to Urban and Rural Development Minister Dr Peyavali Mushelenga in May 2018 entitled “Sale of Land to Foreign Nationals”, AR activist Dimbulukeni Shipandeni Nauyoma preoccupied with the sale of our country interrogates:
Minister, we are writing to ascertain and get guidance from your good office; (a) what is the government and ministry’s position on the sale of land to foreign nationals by local authorities? (b) can a foreign national surpass a Namibian in terms of land allocations by a local authority? (c) Does citizenship not matter in land allocations?
In response, minister Mushelenga referred activist Nauyoma to the Namibian Constitution relating to property relations, putting emphasis on the latter part of Article 16 (1) in that: All persons shall have the right in any part of Namibia to acquire, own and dispose of all forms of immovable and movable property individually or in association with others and to bequeath their property to their heirs or legatees: provided that Parliament may by legislation prohibit or regulate as it deems expedient the right to acquire property by persons who are not Namibian citizens.
Despite this article permitting parliament to prohibit or regulate the right of foreign nationals to own and buy property in Namibia, parliament has dismally failed to do so over the past 30 years of political independence including a haphazard attempt of a 2015 Cabinet resolution that led to the draft amendments to the Local Authorities Act in order to prohibit the sale of urban land to foreigners.
What is to be done?
The Affirmative Repositioning movement in providing leadership and qualitative logical guidance to Namibian society since its birth in 2014 drafted the Land Indigenization Bill that will fulfill the promise of Article 16 (1).
Through this act, in a nutshell, the government will ensure that land ownership is given its rightful positionality regarding the key purpose of the fight for freedom and independence – the return of the land to the Namibian people in general and the indigenous Namibians in particular. The government will ensure the above through – (a) Prohibition of the ownership of any land to foreign nationals; (b) Enabling the government and its agencies to allocate land to Namibians in general and indigenous Namibians in particular and (c) Ensure that, through this Act or regulations, existing land owned by foreign nationals is indigenized through negotiations, partnerships or expropriation.
AR is pleased to note that the Bill has now been tabled in the National Assembly and read to members of Parliament by Speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi who has directed that this Bill be submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Constitutional Affairs.
The Land Indigenization Bill is wholly supported by Articles 16 (1), 63 (2) (I) and we look forward in its tabling for actual debate in the National Assembly so that we give impetus to Article 16 (1) of our constitution.
Finally, AR, through the office of the special envoy on the Land Indigenization Bill seeks to engage all MPs, civil society and political parties and formations to solicit their support for the final realisation and enactment of the Land Indigenization Bill in our collective mission to restore the dignity of landless Namibians.
*Benedick M. Louw is the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) Special Envoy on the Land Indigenization Bill.