New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Farmers Reject Proposed Land Tax

Windhoek — The government has made a surprise turnabout on the highly unpopular and contentious land tax plan contained in the 2012 Provisional Valuation Roll.

The farming sector has strongly rejected the government's proposed plan. More than 2 400 farmers objected to the 2012 Provisional Valuation Roll that was introduced late last year and which sent shudders down the spine of many a farmer. The publication of the provisional valuation roll was followed by outrage, when it finally dawned that the proposed taxes could cripple the entire farming sector.

Some 80 percent of the Namibian population relies directly or indirectly on farming for their income. Both the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAC) and the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) expressed their satisfaction with the scrapping of the unpopular valuation roll, saying the biggest problem with the proposed roll was that it missed the crux of the matter, namely that land taxes should be in line with the carrying capacity of a farm.

In some cases land taxes would have escalated by as much as 600 percent and more had the proposed valuations become effective. Oloff Manjanu of the National Namibian Farmers Union (NNFU) yesterday reacted strongly to the announcement. Speaking in his private capacity, Manjanu said the NNFU must still consolidate its position on the issue.

"But on my own behalf, I want to stress that this futile exercise just once again proves that government must sweep in front of its own door. The time has come for government to mobilise all machinery in the land tax system and replace it with a fair and just system. The right people must be employed with adequate human resources back-up," he said.

"By that I mean that government must establish the real value of any land or farm, not exploit white farmers and not compete with the affirmative action system already in place," he added. Manjanu further said government should look at the whole system of land tax from a different perspective.

"It is a fact that government must collect land taxes, but it must be fair and just. It is also a fact that these taxes are collected to help government to pay for land for the previously disadvantaged, and the aim is for communal farmers to benefit most. With that I agree, but I don't agree that black farmers do not have to pay land tax."

He said it was ridiculous that some farmers would have to pay more land tax exceeding 600 percent of what they are currently paying as proposed in the provisional evaluation roll. "All land taxes in Namibia should be fair, affordable and in line with the carrying capacity of a farm. Let everybody pay land taxes, according to such a fair system," he concluded.

!Naruseb also announced that the valuation court, originally scheduled to sit last month but postponed to May, has been cancelled until further notice.

The Minister of Lands and Resettlement Alpheus !Nauruseb confirmed that the government has shelved the highly unpopular and contentious plan through an advertisement placed in this newspaper last week, announcing that it had withdrawn the valuation roll.

In his reaction, Sakkie Coetzee, the executive manager of the NAU, said the biggest flaw of the provisional roll was that it did not strike a balance between the proposed taxes and the carrying capacity and production value of farms.

"We at the NAU are thankful that the roll has been scrapped and we are proud that the NAU's consistent negotiations with every role player paid off. A complete revision of the land tax plan is needed if we want to move on in a logical way," he concluded.

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