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PDM loses first round in Russian farms deal

2023-09-12  Maria Amakali

PDM loses first round in Russian farms deal

The Popular Democratic Movement was dealt a hard blow by the High Court on Friday in its fight to get the court to set aside government’s decision to lease farms to a Russian billionaire. 

In 2018, government leased out four farms
to Rashid Sardarov for 99 years. Over N$160 million exchanged hands between Sardarov and the State. 

On Friday, High Court Judge Orben Sibeya dismissed PDM’s application to have the review matter referred for oral evidence. 

“In the court’s view, the application sought by the applicant is literally a referral of the matter for trial, which is distinctive from an application for referral to oral evidence. The applicant was further found to have failed to identify the witnesses required for oral evidence,” said Sibeya.

He further said it is only specified disputed facts that can be referred for oral evidence and not the whole matter.

According to Sibeya, the matter was registered in 2018 and the referral for oral evidence on the whole claims made by PDM will likely delay its finalisation.

In December 2018, PDM approached the court for it to review and declare government’s decision to lease four farms in Dordabis, south-east of Windhoek, to Sardarov for 99 years as unlawful.

Namibia’s second largest political party, through its leader McHenry Venaani, also wants such a decision set aside by the court, citing that the scheme through which the government became the registered owner of the farms by donation
to lease them to the Russian billionaire is
unlawful.

According to Venaani, the land reform minister has no powers in terms of the act to lease the farms to a foreigner, as “the leasehold of 99 years is reserved solely in terms of the act for previously disadvantaged Namibians”.

He said the 99-year lease period to a foreigner is unreasonable and not rationally connected to the purpose of the act or any public purpose.

At the time, government officials, including land reform minister Utoni Nujoma, finance minister Calle Schlettwein and Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila defended the deal, stating that it was in the best interest of the country.

According to court documents, Sardarov, through his company Comsar Properties SA, made a proposal that it would donate N$24 million to the government. The donation accompanied its proposal to purchase and acquire ownership of the farms.

N$12 million of the donation was to be paid
 to the land reform ministry to purchase two farms for resettlement purposes, N$1 million was to be utilised by the government so it could train and resettle those who occupied the land before – and N$10 million was to be contributed to the Namibia Premier Soccer League. 

The remaining N$1 million was to be utilised for the refurbishment of two primary schools in Kavango West and Kunene regions. 

However, this proposal was refused by the minister on 17 April 2018. 

The minister proposed for Comsar to lease the farms.

Comsar made the government another offer on 27 April 2018 to purchase the farms and donate them to the government, subject to a 99-year lease agreement. 

This offer was approved by government on 12 September 2018. 

Comsar paid a total of N$161 million for the farms. The farms have since been consolidated into one farm, named Marula Game Ranch.

The matter has been postponed to 28 September for a status hearing.

- mamakali@nepc.com.na


2023-09-12  Maria Amakali

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