The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Lands Ministry 'Advertises' Resettlement Farms Internally

AN internal circular in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement informing staff on available farming units has raised eyebrows, with suggestions that it smacks of something similar to 'insider trading'.

The circular - distributed by e-mail on September 9 - came from the office of Permanent Secretary Lidwina Shapwa, who was resettled on a 1799-hectare farm in the Oshikoto Region on July 29.

It said the deadline for the available farm units was October 1, and attached to the e-mail was an application form for resettlement or leasing of Government land.

The e-mail lists seven steps for an application to be considered, one of them being that applicants should indicate their preferred farming units.

The director of resettlement in the Ministry, Alfred Sikopo, said the farming units had already been advertised on September 1 to 9 in the New Era and Republikein, and that the information was also circulated to all regional councils and Lands Ministry regional offices to be placed on notice boards.

The farms in question are a portion - called Voorspoed - of Farm Usagei number 367 (unit A and B) in Omaheke; two farming units of Farm Ginnegaap number 997, also in Omaheke; two unit of Farm Gruis in Kunene; three units of New-Beproewing in the Aranos area in Hardap; and five units of Farm Laura and Portion 1 of the farm Gemsbokfontein in Omaheke.

Sikopo said the Ministry circulates information on available farms for resettlement only after the farms have been gazetted and advertised in newspapers.

"The Ministry does not inform staff members of available farms before they are advertised," Sikopo stressed.

He said the internal e-mail notifying staff of the available farms does not constitute a conflict of interest, but was intended for dissemination to the public after the farms were advertised in the media.

The e-mail was, however, directed to "all staff members" of the Ministry of Lands.

"It is important to note that the Ministry is not involved in the nomination of applicants for consideration by the Minister," said Sikopo.

He said regional resettlement committees and the Land Reform Advisory Commission do that, while the Ministry only does administrative activities.

"This arrangement insulates the ministerial staff from having influence in the allocation process," Sikopo said.

"But why should ministry staff be treated differently; they are citizens like all of us and should access information on resettlement farms like the rest of us. This is unfair treatment," commented a member of the public requesting anonymity.

The allocation of a resettlement farm to Permanent Secretary Shapwa has drawn criticism from the public and opposition parties who felt that the well-off and well-connected seem to be benefiting from Government's resettlement programme.

When Shapwa was questioned about her resettlement, she countered that there were many other Ministry staffers who had been resettled.

The Ministry defended her resettlement by insisting that she was treated like any other previously disadvantaged Namibian wanting land.

Following this, Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) Member of Parliament Anton von Wietersheim demanded that Minister of Lands and Resettlement Alpheus !Naruseb tell Parliament what the criteria were for resettlement, and how many staff at the Ministry had been resettled.

Minister !Naruseb has yet to respond to these questions.

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