July 30, 2015, 7:19am
City farms cheaper than houses
LONG-TERM contracts signed between the Windhoek municipality and well-connected entities involving the lease of four farms at ridiculously low rates are haunting the council.
The municipality has five farms - Commonage 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 - with a combined hectarage of 28 220. One of the farms, Commonage 3, that measures 8 000 ha, was invaded by landless people.
This leaves 20 220ha that are earning the municipality N$76 382,85 per month.
Some councillors told The Namibian yesterday that despite their calls for a probe into the ridiculously low rates charged, nothing has been done to rectify the situation yet.
Businessman Quinton van Rooyen's company, Trustco Group Holdings, is one of the entities sitting on one of the six farms east of Windhoek.
The company leases Commonage Farm 3 that measures 4 000 hectares and is paying N$9 700 per month for it.
Currently, the Trustco Group Holdings agreement is being dealt with by the municipality's legal division after the company allegedly sub-leased part of the land. Trustco got the 30-year lease in 200.
According to a document obtained by The Namibian, Trustco got the farm on the pretext of running a game ranch, recreational facilities and a livestock farming venture.
Van Rooyen, who initially promised to answer questions, later declined to do so, saying he was too busy.
He also promised to send court documents pertaining to the matter to The Namibian yesterday but he did not.
About a decade ago, Trustco bought Lafrenz farm for N$10 million. Today, the company stands to make more than N$800 million from selling off plots on the 350ha farm.
Another beneficiary of Windhoek town lands is Tonny Rossouw, who is leasing two portions of Commonage Farm 1 that measure a combined 5 900 hectares and pays N$15 267,82 per month for both.
Rossouw signed one of the leases for the 3 400ha portion on 1 January 2005 and will still use the farm for the next 19 years.
According to documents, he is using the farm for recreational facilities and livestock farming, while paying N$7 914,04 per month.
Although the other lease for the second portion that measures 2 500ha was signed on the same date, it is renewed every year. For this portion, Rossouw pays N$7 300 per month.
The other portion of the farm being leased by Rossouw was sold to Eros Valley Consortium run by businesspeople Sidney Martin, Russell Paschke, Frank Fredericks, Lazarus Jacobs, Desmond Amunyela, Stephen Roy Paschke, Thurstan Salt and Jacobus de la Rey du Toi. It is not clear how big this portion is and how much the consortium paid the municipality.
Commonage 2, which is 6 000ha, is being leased by the Moltkeblick Game Farm for N$37 000 per month. The lease agreement was signed in 2000 and will run until 2024.
The farm borders the Finkenstein Estate owned by former Windhoek mayor Björn Graf Finck von Finckenstein. The estate has 222 own title plots that are selling for millions of dollars. Just recently, a five-bedroom house on a 9 500 square metre plot was sold for N$11 million.
Although it is not clear who owns Moltkeblick, documents obtained by The Namibian show that prominent businessman Gerd Burmeister represented the game farm in an agreement with the Finkenstein Estate when they negotiated a passage through the ranch.
A farmer named MO Vermeulen has been occupying Commonage 2 since October 1994. The farm, which measures 3 500ha, is used for livestock farming. Vermeulen pays N$7 200 per month.
Piet Eysselein has been leasing Commonage Farm 5 since June 2000. The 820ha farm serves as a livestock farming area. Eysselein pays N$6 300 per month in rent.
The Namibian understands that most of the leases were signed when the former mayor, Von Finkenstein, who later chaired the municipality's management committee, was in charge.
Von Finkenstein declined to comment yesterday when The Namibian asked him about the questionable leases.
Windhoek municipality spokesperson Joshua Amukugo yesterday said instructions have been given at a council meeting demanding a full report on council farms and their status.
“It will apparently be submitted by next week. We do not want excuses any more. Councillors want to see this report,” he asserted.
Amukugo said they have requested statistics about the total number of farms owned by the municipality; how many are being leased and how much is being paid.
He said the prices of the current farm lease agreements are “laughable”.
“They are not serious prices. Imagine one rents a house for N$12 000 while another is renting a farm for N$9 000,” he said.
Municipal councillors and executives are trying to distance themselves from the lease agreements. Even though they are doing that, most fear that they have not been honest with the President with regards to available land.
“This is troubling. I'm sure President Hage Geingob will not be happy about this,” said a council source.
Some executives claimed that they have been in the dark over the lease agreements.