Govt raked in N$257.2m in land taxes to date
The Government has raked in N$257.2 million in land taxes since the inception of the land tax regime.
In the first quarter of the current financial year 2015/16, the total land tax garnered by government was N$17.9 million.
The land tax department also collected N$11.2 million in the 2014/15 financial year, while in the 2013/14 financial year, they collected N$23.5 million.
The Land Tax regime was started in 2004 to assist the Land Acquisition and Development Fund.
In order to strengthen the enforcement of tax payments, the Land Tax Payment and Reconciliation System was developed.
This sub-programme was aimed at strengthening the Land Valuation and Taxation regulations on commercial agricultural land.
MLR Public Relations’ Officer Chrispin Matongela said until the drought situation gets better, Previously Disadvantaged Namibian (PDNs) commercial farmers will be exempted from paying land taxes.
Last year, the land tax exemption to PDNs cost government roughly N$40 million as potential revenue.
“We do not know how long farmers will be exempted from this land taxes, but as soon as the drought situation calms, they can start paying land taxes. Currently, it’s just a normal land owner who pays their land taxes,” Matongela explained.
Nonetheless, farmers have to apply for exemption from paying land taxes.
In an earlier interview with The Villager, Matongela said the MLR spent N$1 billion for the purposes of land reform and land allocation for the 385 farms it acquired with a combined size of 2.7 million hectares.
“This 2.7 million hectares acquired to date is part of the MLR’s National Resettlement Programme, which states that by 2020, it would have acquired a combined size of 5 million hectares of agricultural land,” he stressed.
These acquisitions were done under the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act of 1995 (Act No. 6 of 1995), which provides the legal basis for the acquisition of agricultural land.
The MLR is, therefore, mandated to acquire agricultural land for the purposes of land reform, and for the allocation of such land to Namibians who do not own or have the use of any or adequate agricultural land.
In addition, those Namibians should have been socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged by past discriminatory laws or practices.
Meanwhile, through the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank), 623 farmers benefitted from the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS), and acquired land with a size of 3.3 million hectares.
On a commercial basis, PDNs acquired 2.1 million hectares of land to date.
Just for the AALS, Agribank spent a total of N$690 million.
“The farms acquired through the AALS are not sold through the MLR, but rather the MLR gives a waiver to Agribank to sell a farm identified by the MLR. However, the requirements are as long as the farm is occupied by a PDN,” he stressed.
Matongela said the MLR attained nine commercial farms through the Land Reform Act with a size of about 44 300 hectares.
These hectares so acquired were handed over to the Office of the Prime Minister’s Special Programme for the resettlement of San people.
A total number of 5096 families were resettled, and this figure is inclusive of the total families resettled.
“1377 are males, and 1996 were females. However, the total figure of gender differentiation does not include figures of the families resettled under the San Development Project administered by the OPM,” noted Matongela.
He added that the MLR acquired land in both communal areas, which were five projects, and commercial areas, which were four projects, with the purpose of allocating it to the San community.
Land worth N$172.1m owned by foreigners
Land worth a taxable value of N$172.1 million in Namibia is currently owned by foreigners which amounts to 1.3 million hectares of land, The Villager can reveal.
Moreover, land worth the taxable value of N$19.6 million is jointly owned by locals and foreigners.
This land in turn amounts to 179, 097.2937 hectares of land owned by Namibians in partnership with foreigners.
Chrispin Matongela, the Ministry of Land Reform’s Public Relations Officer said most of the land owned by foreigners is mainly for business purposes, adding that it is leased to those who can prove that they will be investing in the local economy.
He added that the MLR consults the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development when a foreigner approaches government to acquire land for business purposes.
“We need to ensure that these foreigners are properly informed about the land before it is leased to them, we consult to notify them that the business they would like to set up is suitable for that land or not. Land is a vital resource to the country and whomever wants to lease it must give assurance that they will be contributing to the economy in terms of dealing with unemployment, poverty and ensuring economic growth,” Matongela said.
He stressed that there is no way that a foreigner will be allocated land by government if they do not want to set up a business on that land, reiterating that foreigners will only be allocated land if they are investing in the local economy.
Matongela also added that in terms of land there are certain loopholes whereby locals by land but they cannot service it thus they sell it to foreigners and make easy money.
He added that the other loopholes are when people acquire the land as a partnership but soon convert it to Close Corporations and Companies hence foreigners acquiring ownership of the land.
“These loopholes of accessing land is what we want to deal with. We are looking into all these because we want to cut them out. Government is busy reviewing Acts and laws to be able to deal with these loopholes,” Matongela said.
The types of businesses set up on that land are usually farms for game ranges, lodges, resorts and hotels.
Other businesses that foreigners would engage in range from Animal husbandry and crop farming.
In early media reports this year, it was revealed that Cabinet was working on a report in which it will state the way forward concerning the much-awaited legislation on foreigners owning land in Namibia.
A new amended land bill will thus be tablet in parliament to prohibit ownership of agricultural land by foreign nationals.
At a press conference held two weeks ago, the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Corporation, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said the country is set to board on a land reform programme as Cabinet allowed the adoption of 89 resolutions that would see amendments to the country’s land ownership laws.
“The Government land reform programme I am going to inform you about has three main objectives, namely access to land by Namibian citizens, affordability of both agricultural commercial and urban land and restricting on ownership by foreign nationals,” Nandi-Ndaitwah said.
“Following the Cabinet decision referred to above, new laws are currently receiving attention. The exercise will constitute the most comprehensive land reform process since Independence.”
Some of the key proposed changes:
• Foreigners should not be allowed to own farm land, but should be given the right to use and develop it on a leasehold basis in accordance with Namibia’s open door policy.
• Abandoned and under-utilised commercial land should be reallocated and brought into productive use.
• Farms owned by absentees should be expropriated, but there should be a distinction, between foreign and Namibian owners who do not live on their farms.
• Very large farms and ownership of several farms by one owner should not be permitted and such land should be expropriated.
• There should be land tax on commercial farmland.
Nandi-Ndaitwah also revealed that government will review all its bilateral agreements to ensure that the provision of those agreements are in line with the national legal instruments and aspirations of the Namibians people, in connection with acquiring and owning of land by foreigners.
by Charmaine Ngatjiheue