By Risco Lumamezi
TWO former heads of state in Namibia have co-opted calling for the referendum to amend the Constitution of Namibia, for the implementation of the long awaited debated land issue, currently under scrutiny.
Both former presidents want the current Namibian constitution to be scrapped to fill loopholes that will resolve the status quo, with the amicable resolution to make it easier for the government to resolve land issue in the country.
Namibia’s first president Dr.Sam Nujoma who has a symbolic title of founding father in the post independent era in the former SWA/Namibia, a former Germany colony told the audience on Monday during the Second National Land Conference in Windhoek that he was surprised to hear that foreigners own huge tracts of commercial land compared to indigenous Namibians “ I have come to learn that currently foreigners still own two hundred and fifty farms these comprise of one million two hundred and six thousand and seventeen hectares of land according to the statistics of September 2018 released by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA)”
Former first president Nujoma revealed that 70% of the land is still owned by previously advantaged Namibians, while 16 % of private agricultural land is owned by the previously disadvantaged Namibians. Government owns 14% of the agricultural land mainly due to the unjust and exorbitant pricing of land turned into close cooperation.
“The trend on land ownership should no longer be allowed to continue by the current generation. We need as Namibians to unite and work together and adopt a severe comprehensive and sustainable agrarian land reform in order to address the massive imbalances of land ownership in Namibia”
In his prepared 3 page speech Dr Nujoma explained that “The constitution of the Republic needs to be amended through referendum. It is only through this way that the state can own the entire land in the country including the agricultural commercial land”
He said that the land should belong to the state and not foreigners.“No foreigners should be allowed to own commercial farm land in Namibia”
According to him, this was upon the agreement specified in the first land conference held on June 25, 1991. Saying that, mechanisms should be put in place to speed up the expropriation without compensation of land belonging to absentee land lord.
“However, they are those who are suggesting that such commercial farmland owned by foreigners should be expropriated in the public interest provided that a fact fair and just compensation is given for the infrastructural development that has taken place on the farm.”
He however, stressed that the issue of Ancestral land claims should not be entertained since the first National Land Conference resolved that “given the difficulties in redressing ancestral land claims, restitution of such claims in full is impossible”
“Namibia is a unitary state and every Namibian citizen is allowed to resettle anywhere in the country as provided for by our country’s constitution”
He denounced concerns of other parties that land reform program will result in white farmers being stripped of land to the detriment of the economy “There is no truth to this claim and it should be rejected as any change in this regard will not compromise the food security and economic growth in the country”
Dr. Nujoma emphasized that land must belong to the state to be administered by the government in accordance with the country’s need.
The founding president further warned that “we should not turn all communal land into urban centres and should also consider the issue of evictions of farm workers”
Meanwhile, former Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba called for the abolishment of the “willing buyer, willing seller “principle to enable government to fast-track the land reform program.
He therefore, expressed concern that the willing buyer, willing seller principle in Namibia has given opportunities to the previously advantaged commercial farmers to offer land to government at inflated prices .
“In most instances the land offered is not suitable for resettlement and land reform”
Former president Pohamba also reiterated that the inequality in land ownership for the last twenty eight years after independence still exist in the ownership and distribution of land.
Saying that this is partly attributed to the inconsistencies and ambiguities which are in the articles 16,100 and 131 of the Namibian constitution”
“I therefore, propose to the Second National Land Conference that articles 16,100 and 131 be reviewed through the established legal channels and procedures including the holding of a referendum that would authorize the amendment of article 16, under chapter 3 and article 131, under chapter 19 of the constitution of the Republic of Namibia”
“Another issue of concern to me is that 250 farms, which translate into 2% of free hold agricultural (commercial) land are owned by foreigners and absentee landlords”
He proposed that commercial farm land owned by foreigners and absentee land lords be expropriated with just compensation on developmental capital invested therein and be transferred to the state.
He further warned with extreme caution on the calls of the restitution of ancestral land that it is not in the best interest of the country.
“ I want to caution that given the complexities of the matter and the fluid historical and anthropological consideration interchanging patterns of land use by different communities in our country and overlapping jurisdictions going down that road could have unintended negative consequences and lead to divisions, tensions and civil strife”
Former president Pohamba further concluded that the entire Namibian land ,water, and natural resources below and above the surface of the land in the continental shelf as well as within the territorial waters and exclusion. Economic zone of Namibia should be placed under the ownership of the state.
“The state shall, therefore compensate for developmental capital invested on farm land should the occupier decide to leave”.