WINDHOEK – Government has over the past 22 years spent N$645 million to resettle nearly 5 000 households on 311 farms - each household comprising of at least two people.
Tens of thousands of Namibians are land-hungry after they were uprooted by a white minority settler regime that systematically grabbed the best chunks of arable land and confined indigenous black Namibians to patches of less fertile land without any compensation. But the current resettlement programme being implemented on a ‘willing-buyer, willing seller’ basis has made little progress to reverse the wholesale land displacements of the past.
Not only is government short on the amount of money required to fast-track land delivery, it has also been unable to fulfill its commitment to acquire 280 000 hectares (ha) of land every year to resettle about 140 families a year by the year 2020.
The blame is apportioned to the exorbitant prices charged for farmland, that have kept stretching government’s limited annual budget for land acquisition over the past two decades.
The Minister of Lands and Resettlement Alpheus !Naruseb, in an exclusive interview with New Era said farmland prices have escalated to such an extent that the N$80 million allocated annually for the purpose of buying resettlement farms is not sufficient to acquire even 10 farms. The ministry needs between N$280 million and N$300 million annually to meet its target.
“We actually end up not having enough funds available to buy the farms that we ought to buy,” said !Naruseb.
As a result, government often has to waive its first option to buy, allowing farmers to sell in the open market.
Since the country’s independence in 1990 the government has resettled 4 929 families on 311 commercial farms at a cost of N$645 million. The farms have a combined size of close to two million hectares, according to information provided by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement. The current N$80 million allocation is made up of N$50 million from the national budget, while the N$30 million consists of proceeds from annual commercial land taxes.
The N$80 million is supposed to cover the purchase of farms as well as rehabilitation of infrastructure, such as water provision and fencing, on the acquired farms.
So far government has been buying less than 100 000 ha of land annually, which is close to 200 000 ha shy of the 280 000 ha target. The minister said an average farm of 4000 ha to 5000 ha would cost anything between N$7 million to N$10 million, which may translate in just seven farms bought per annum. He said that such a situation is not sustainable to meet the set targets.
“We want the different stakeholders in our land resettlement programme to be able to reach out to one another, the ones who need land as well as the ones who own land, so that we would be able to appreciate the past where we came from in order to make the future destination easier,” said !Naruseb, appealing for understanding to ensure a smooth process of land acquisition.
“Those who need land should not be too demanding, and those that have land should not be pricing land [at] unaffordable prices,” he said. All the land so far has been bought on the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ principle, in accordance with the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act 6 of 1995, which gives government the first option to buy commercial farmland.
Land is only sold on the open market when government has granted a waiver certificate to the owner of the land, in which the government forgoes the option as the first purchaser. Namibians are resettled on the acquired farms under a lease agreement for 99 years. Farms bought in the last 22 years are spread over the Erongo, Hardap, Karas, Khomas, Kunene, Omaheke, Oshikoto and Otjozondjupa regions.
A total of 59 farms have been purchased in the Omaheke Region, with 54 farms in the Hardap Region, while only 16 farms were acquired in the Erongo and Oshikoto regions. Nine farms were bought in the Khomas Region.
The minister has called on the fortunate families that have been resettled to work hard and to put in serious efforts to make a living from the land that they have been given, and not just to sit on the land.