29 November 2012

Namibia: Land Issue in Hands of Swapo Congress

THE land issue will come under the spotlight at the weekend’s Swapo congress with the aim to ensure that land is equitably allocated, efficiently managed and sustainably administered for the benefit of all Namibians.

The expectation is that measures will be set in motion to accelerate Government’s efforts to redress the existing imbalances of land acquisition and distribution.

“The process is just too long and this is frustrating the people. At the moment with the stretched-out process the government can only process the purchase of ten farms annually. At the same time the money allocated for the purchasing of farms should also be increased,” the general secretary of the Namibia Farmworkers Union, Alfred Angula, told The Namibian.

One of the proposals for the Swapo congress is that the current N$50 million budget for buying land be increased, and that the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS) be strengthened and expanded to enable more people to have access to the scheme at an affordable rate.

In addition, the policy document on land reform recommends that the Commercial Land Reform Act and the Communal Land Reform Act be merged so that all previously disadvantaged farmers benefit from the Land Acquisition and Development Fund.

“The prices of land have also been skyrocketing and many commercial farmers offer the purchase of their farms to the government against these high prices while some of the farms are not viable for agricultural purposes,” said Angula.

Apparently the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement has waived about 80% of the farms offered to Government and Angula ascribed this to the high prices and quality of the farms.

Against this background the congress will also consider strengthening compulsory land acquisition.

“The expropriation of land is not the answer. The government can currently not buy all the farms that commercial farmers are offering them. More money should be allocated by Government to buy farms and better rates should be determined for AAL loans so that more people can be accommodated by AgriBank,” said the executive manager of the Namibia Agriculture Union, Sakkie Coetzee.

Another issue that would be considered by the congress is that the government should implement progressive land tax on commercial farms and amend the law to exempt all previously disadvantaged Namibians from paying tax on their first farm.

According to the policy the government should also develop under-utilised and underdeveloped communal land into small-scale commercial farming units and allocate it to previously disadvantaged Namibians.

“The government should provide appropriate training, mentoring and facilitation services, with special emphasis on livestock (rangeland management) and crop production for all beneficiaries,” reads the policy document.

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