Outrage as Agribank auctions black farms ahead of land conference

25 Jul 2018 14:20pm

 Outrage and shock has gripped the previously disadvantaged farming community in the wake of an Agribank decision to pounce on two undisclosed Otjozondjupa farms this Friday. 

A statement on the bank’s website reads that the chief executive officer, Sakaria Nghikembua said “these two auctions should not be seen in isolation but as part of an ongoing series”.

The farmers who opened up to this publication have expressed disappointment at the latest development citing that at a June meeting with three members of an Agribank Credit and Investment Committee promised them that no drastic action would be taken on defaulting farms in the meantime.

Leader of the contingent of affected farmers, Jane Kuhanga said, “We thought that we had come to an agreement. I was just a bit shocked and to my disappointment three board members available during that meeting and the CEO is now putting this across.”

“Was there no communication of the minutes of the meeting that we had? Or did the CEO totally discard what we had agreed on? I was of the opinion that he decided to do something like that. He could have probably reverted back to us to say the stand of the bank is like this, we are no longer entertaining your proposals and I think that what the board has agreed on. We could have probably agreed.”

She said the meetings discussed loan repayments and delisting on ITC as part of the agenda. 

Fears are flaring that the said farms would be auctioned to White farmers, most of which are beneficiaries of the old apartheid era and it is from this section that government is trying to purchase farms from for redistribution to disenfranchised natives.

One farmer who identified himself as Braso had this to say: “It’s indeed shocking and government is saying that no land will be auctioned. It’s not acceptable. At the end of the day, who are the buyers of these farms?”

He says this is a blatant failure of the and reform drive, “Because those particular farms will only be bought by White people and the land is going back to White people again.”

“Nobody from the government is chipping in to hold this thing back because this will bring bigger problems than expected. We have the land conference around the corner and these type of events are happening.”

 This past week alone, recommendations during land consultation meetings held last week have been that government must expropriate land from absentee landlords without compensation and hand back ancestral lands to the rightful owners.

For Eddison Katjipuka, whoever will buy these farms will likely face the same problems the farmers are in rendering the auction worthless: “Even if they collect that N$500 million today and fund new farm owners those guys will be back in the same scenario a year after that.” 

Katjipuka had no kinds words for Nghikembua, the CEO: “To him this whole thing is fun, it’s something that he is experimenting on. We have been saying time and again we never said to the minister or to the Agribank board that there is a refusal from our side to pay any of those loans.”

“We have a principal problem in the method of collection that this comrade wants to do. The arrears are unacceptable, we could also have done the very same thing in trying to address the arrears but comrade you don’t address a thing that has been coming on for the last twenty years in one year, it dos not happen,” he said. 

Agribank is however stuck to the view that the only thing that can stop the process now is payment of the arrears by the clients before the auction date. In the absence of that, the process will go through to the end". 

There is uncertainty as to which farms will be auctioned and Kuhanga said attempts to get info as to identity of the farms had not yielded any results. 

  Meanwhile the stand-off between the bank and the farmers comes a long way with the former hard-pressed to fulfil its mandate and grow the loan book while the latter feel betrayed.

Anger has also been turned against the finance minister, Calle Schlettwein who has been accused of spurring the bank into action to repossess farms. 

 The land conference is slated for 1-5 October 2018 and it is not clear whether both parties will find each other.