THE commercial and communal farmers' unions have both welcomed the withdrawal of the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement's provisional land valuation roll and the decision to cancel the valuation court sitting that was scheduled from May 20 to 31 this year.
The ministry last year came under fire from commercial and communal farmers alike, who felt the land tax was too steep.
The 2012 provisional valuation roll had raised farm valutions by as much as 630%, while the valuations of adjacent farms in some cases differed by 100 percent.
Sentiments then were that the valuations did not reflect the principles of fairness and affordability of farmland, and farmers insisted that the ministry should clarify the process it followed to arrive at the now withdrawn valuations.
The ministry reportedly intended to hike land tax on commercial farms to raise N$400 million within the next five years to acquire farms for land reform.
On January 15, the ministry announced the withdrawal of the valuation roll, and on Friday, Minister Alpheus !Naruseb said it was because half the number of objections received - 3 900 in total - had brought out a number of legal issues that the ministry first needed to discuss with the attorney general's office.
"We are currently waiting for the advice from the attorney general [Albert Kawana] on those legal issues that were raised," !Naruseb said.
The valuer general in the ministry, Mackay Rigana, said the legal issues ranged from constitutional to procedural issues which challenged the basis of the imposition of a land tax and the basis of the determination of a farm's value.
According to the Land Valuation and Taxation Regulations of 2007, the valuer must disregard improvements in the valuation analysis to arrive at the bare land value.
But !Naruseb said it was found that there was a misalignment in the computer system - the Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (Cama) - which meant that the value of improvements was not deducted from the valuations.
The ministry is now reviewing the entire valuation roll, and once that has been done, a new provisional valuation roll will be put on display for public viewing within the next three months.
It is further anticipated that the valuation court will sit sometime in June if all matters pertaining to it are sorted out.
The president of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), Sakkie Coetzee, suggested that the valuation roll should consider the production capacity of the farm.
Rigana said valuations currently do not correlate with a farm's production capacity, and admitted that this should form part of the revision of the valuation roll.
The president of the Namibian National Farmers Union (NNFU), Pintile Davids, felt that the ministry should consider a revision of prohibitively high land taxes which are commensurate with the generally high prices of farms, and reiterated a former suggestion that government should intervene in land prices.
Davids suggested that the ministry consider the introduction of reparation mechanisms to force land prices down, something which !Naruseb said is a valid observation, but emphasised that it was necessary for all to find a common approach to the land reform process.
"At the end it comes down to the common good. Our desire must be to reach out to each other," said !Naruseb, cautioning that if the land reform process is not steered carefully, a "third force" could move in and destabilise and derail the process.
"We don't have to hunt around for examples," he added, presumably referring to the highly politicised land grabbing in Zimbabwe.
"We are cognisant of the fact that the liberation struggle was about land. But there is a perception and mindset out there that farmers are only too keen to receive millions for land but raise hell when those millions are to be taxed. So make my task as sector head easier and let us reach out and develop a common approach to shape a common destiny. We must find a way that is mutually beneficial," !Naruseb said.