WINDHOEK - There must be a restitution of ancestral land rights for those Namibians who lost land because of colonial dispossession and genocide, states the Ovaherero Traditional Authority in its position paper on land prepared in anticipation of the Second National Land Conference scheduled for October 1-5.
The authority further advocates for the establishment of fair and transparent processes and institutions to verify and determine ancestral land rights claims. It says the conference should not be the arbiter on whether ancestral land rights should be recognised and restored or not but at best, it should resolve to set up a panel of experts to draft policy and legislation for formulating due processes and establishing competent institutions to deal with the crucial issue of ancestral land. The authority also cautions that lessons from countries such as South Africa should inform the search for solutions in Namibia on the ancestral land question. “The first remedy for restitution should be the return of the actual land that was expropriated [ancestral land] and only when this is proven impossible by competent institutions, should alternative remedies be contemplated. Such include the provision of an alternative suitable land; monetary compensation; and the development of assistance.
Regarding land prices in the country, the traditional authority suggests their capping and controlling in line with the productive value in agriculture and such capping should guide landowners when selling their land. Such capping and controlling guidelines they said should replace the current market willing seller and willing buyer mechanism of land transactions. It says capping and controlling land prices will prevent land speculations and stimulate and encourage the occupation and cultivation of agricultural land. It will also transfer skills and knowledge as well as engender succession planning and thereby increasing productivity on agricultural land in the country.
Government must be mindful of the value of agricultural production and thus the value of land, and of the need for the Ministry of Land Reform and Agricultural Bank of Namibia to harmonise their activities regarding land management. The country’s National Policy on Land and Related Matters ala the Ovaherero authority, must consider and contain relevant factors and formulas that qualify productive valuation for standardised implementation with all financial institutions complying with and adapting these standards in their future financing transactions. No seller must be allowed to sell her/his farmland on the market [publicly or privately] above the productive value of her/his land. The land policy must be clear on which, what and when exceptions apply to applications for the sub-division of any agricultural land in the country, and when such must be done by the land tribunal committee. “Any sub-division related transaction which compromises the productive farming capacity of the farm, the ability of the owner to farm productively and the productive value of the land, must be declined,” reads the position paper.
It says the valuation of agricultural farmland and the cash flow projection when assessing an owner’s or buyer’s repayment ability must fully consider the available productive capacity and other potential income generation activities of the land, particularly with intent to diversification and value addition. Communal land which is not used productively must be identified, and then fully developed, providing it with the basic infrastructure. It must then be divided into economic units for allocation to farmers with the first priority for resettlement being given by the local traditional authorities to local communities currently living there. People in the communal areas must also be given title deeds to their land.
The paper further maintains that acceptable economic units of agricultural lands in the different agricultural zones must be determined, sub-divided into economic units and thereafter including the remaining portions must conform to standards of economic productivity. The Ovaherero Traditional Authority’s position paper on land further proposes the imposition of heavy penalties or taxation on the subdivision of agricultural land into different portions to discourage speculative tendencies with land by private landowners. This is also to encourage the availability of agricultural land of productive value and its economic unit on the market. “Sub-division of agricultural farmland by the Ministry of Land Reform into different portions or farming units for either settlement or re-settlement is not exempted but must also honour these standards to enhance both productive value of land and its economic unit,” the authority suggests.
It further maintains that land should not only be appreciated from a productive point of view but its socio-economic aspect must also be highly considered. “Those that were impacted negatively by historical dispossessions must be given special preference and considerations,” the authority positions itself. Further, it implores the Namibian government, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, to design sustainable support strategies for farmers settled and re-settled on commercial land. It proposes yearly loans of between N$500,000 and a million for each farmer at zero interest to promote growth, sustainability and the overall productivity of this land. The Affirmative Action Loan Scheme must be overhauled to encourage and appreciate the number of black Namibians buying commercial farmland thereby easing pressure on communal land. Financing in this regard must be at subsidised interest rates fixed at less than two percent per year over 25 to 30 years. Farmers must also get the necessary support from the government through extension services, agro processing and other value addition initiatives encouraging and keeping agricultural producers in farming to improve the productive value of their lands.
Lastly, the Ovaherero Traditional Authority proposes that the Land Reform Ministry intensifies efforts to provide technical skills as well as monitoring and evaluating farming progress and performance of loans and to make amends as may be necessary. Besides for conducting regular research on current and future best practices in agriculture and related matters and sharing findings thereof with settled and re-settled farmers.