Land Reform: Namibia Wants More
Windhoek – The land reform programme remains a priority of the Namibian government, but the process is beset with many challenges and will remain so until a second National Land Conference is convened, a senior government official in Windhoek says.
Minister of Land and Resettlement, Alpheus !Naruseb this past week said there was need to review land reform policies to give resettlement and tenure reform added impetus.
Namibia introduced the land reform programme soon after Independence in March 1990. And in June 1991, a consultative National Conference on Land Reform and the Land Question came up with recommendations on how to address skewed land distribution and ownership in the country.
Legal instruments have since been adopted to speed up land redistribution. These include the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act, 1995 (No 6 of 1995), which has received mixed reactions especially for the “willing-seller, willing-buyer” provision was formalised.
Despite the willing-seller, willing-buyer approach – or maybe because of it – the land reform programme has been moving at a slow pace. Unavailability of land for the state to buy, lack of co-ordinated post-settlement support services, and insufficient funding are some of the issues hampering progress.
In 2004, the government initiated a process of expropriation to complement the willing-seller, willing-buyer system. But due to legal bottlenecks, the process proved to be too costly for the state.
Under the National Resettlement Programme spearheaded by the Ministry of Land and Resettlement, the government has set an acquisition target of 15 million hectares of freehold land by 2020.
The target will be tackled thus: five million hectares to be redistributed through the resettlement programme, and remaining 10 million hectares to be redistributed through the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme administered by the Agricultural Bank of Namibia.
To address present challenges facing the resettlement programme, Minister !Naruseb believes there is need for a second national consultation conference to review policies.
“We will continue to have problems until the nation decides to convene another land conference to address challenges with regard to the land reform programme.
“All the laws and policies on land are based on what was decided by the 1991 Land Conference,” !Naruseb said.
Minister !Naruseb said this while launching his ministry’s Strategic Plan for 2013-2017 on October 24.
In its new blueprint, the ministry aspires to acquire 2.5 million hectares of farmland by 2017, and it plans to resettle at least 502 previously disadvantaged landless Namibians on the acquired land.
The Ministry of Lands will need nearly R4 billion to successfully implement its five-year strategic plan, with most of the money going to land acquisition and re-allocation.
During the current financial year, the ministry plans to purchase 77 000 hectares to resettle 31 beneficiaries.
Minister !Naruseb told the National Assembly recently that since the inception of the land reform programme, the government has spent R77 million to buy 345 farms.
This has seen 4 981 landless Namibians being resettled.
“The land reform programme remains a priority area of the government and this is demonstrated by the amount of resources that are being invested in redressing the skewed land ownership patterns,” the minister said.
“The process may seem slow but the programme is well-defined and the ministry understands its responsibility and is on course to deliver within the agreed legal and policy framework.
“All farms acquired by the ministry since independence have been purchased with money appropriated by Parliament and so is the infrastructural rehabilitation programme, thus manifesting a clear testimony of the government commitment to land reform.”
Minister !Naruseb ‑ at the launch that was attended by various stakeholders including the Namibia Agricultural Union executive manager Sakkie Coetzee ‑ appealed to commercial farmers to “continue offering farms to the ministry for possible acquisition”.
The 2013/17 strategic plan replaced the first edition of the 2011/16 that was launched in September 2011.
The ministry decided to review the first plan in order to align it with the programmes and initiatives stated in the fourth National Development Plan (NDP4). This was in response to the directives from the Office of the Prime Minister and the National Planning Commission to all government offices to align their programmes in tandem with Vision 2030 and NDP4.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has heeded the directive.
That ministry recently launched the new National Employment Policy, which was formulated in alignment with the NDP4 and Vision 2030.
The new employment policy is linked to the country’s industrial policy. Its objective is to actualise goals outlined in NDP4 ‑ a government planning tool that was launched in 2012 and will run up to 2017.
The employment policy focuses on key areas for job creation as outlined in NDP4 such as modernisation of the agricultural sector and food production; value addition; renewable energy generation and green jobs; housing and sanitation; and tourism; small and medium-size enterprise development and transformation of the informal economy.