WINDHOEK - Opposition parties are waving red flags with regard to the massive Russian farms deal, saying the multi-billion dollar arrangement could open the floodgates for other wealthy foreigners to acquire prestige Namibian land.
The land deal that saw Russian billionaire Rashid Sardarov lease four farms, valued at N$43 million, and measuring a combined 17 000 hectares, for 99 years was done two days before the second national land conference, which took place earlier this month.
The land conference resolved, among other things, to prohibit the sale of farmland to foreigners, and to put a cap on the number of farms an individual may own.
Landless People’s Movement’s (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi said the deal was essentially to open way for any billionaire around the world to come and own land in the country.
“This is what in modern-day is called the new scramble for Africa, [which] is how it played out in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya,” he said, adding that in those countries you will find one rhino under the conservation laws on 20 – 30 hectares of land just for Prince Harry, Donald Trump’s wife to come and take pictures of the rhino, while blacks are outside the electrified fences.
“This is the modern-day land grab – they come under conservation, under investment. In Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya never will you see locals being shareholders. Modern-day scramble for Africa, Namibia has entered the race,” he said.
Swaartbooi’s sentiment is supported by Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Nico Smith who said the deal opens a real Pandora’s box of possibilities to circumvent any future laws based on the wishes of the land conference.
“In future any foreigner will be able to use the same route to own land here. And how will the government force Namibians to hand over their excess farms?” said Smith at a press conference this week.
However, responding to journalists’ questions at a media conference on Tuesday, Information and Communication Technology Minister Stanley Simataa said each intention of an investor to invest will have to be considered on the basis of its merits.
“The fact that we have dealt with the issue in that way does not imply necessarily that every offer for investment will be treated in the same way. There are going to be different considerations, so the investment offer will have to be treated on the basis of what it wants to achieve and consideration has to be made on that basis,” said Simataa who had on Tuesday accompanied Minister of Land Reform Utoni Nujoma to the media briefing to clarify the deal.