Information and communication minister Stanley Simataa says interested Namibians should form joint ventures with foreigner investors to buy the nearly 71 000-hectare Erindi Private Game Reserve after the government's decision not to purchase it.
Namibia's biggest privately owned game reserve, Erindi, located south-east of Omaruru, has been on the market for five years for nearly N$2 billion by Erindi (Pty) Ltd, the company that owns the reserve.
Simataa said during a Cabinet briefing in Windhoek on Thursday that the government scrapped its plans to buy the reserve because it does not have the money to buy Erindi. He added that the government can only purchase the farms encompassing Erindi for N$265 million, which is the government's calculated value of the farms.
“Cabinet took note that the government has no financial resources to acquire it [Erindi], and the farms that constitute the game reserve are not suitable for resettlement purposes,” he noted. The minister stated that Cabinet directed land reform minister Utoni Nujoma to negotiate, in consultation with the attorney general, an out-of-court settlement of a pending High Court case with the owners of Erindi, which would be in the best interest of the government.
Simataa, however, said the government does not want the ownership of the game reserve to move from one foreigner to another, adding that those who have the means to buy Erindi should get involved. He thus urged Namibian companies or individuals to form joint ventures with a prospective foreign buyer to purchase Erindi.
“Keep in mind that as a country, we welcome foreign investments, but that foreign investment should be on the terms we set as a country,” the minister stressed.
He added that a requirement which the government has set for the sale of Erindi is that foreign investors should not buy Erindi alone, but the buyer should include Namibians.
The minister said this is done so that over time, the country will see a situation where the current skewed ownership of land can begin to be balanced in terms of Namibian ownership and participation.
Simataa's announcement follows a case in which Erindi (Pty) Ltd sought a court order to compel the government to either buy two of the farms comprising Erindi for N$1,9 billion, or to allow the company to sell the private game reserve on the open market, possibly to a non-Namibian buyer.
Erindi (Pty) Ltd is the owner of the farms Erindi, Constantia and Otjimukaru, situated between Okahandja and Omaruru, on which the Erindi Private Game Reserve has been established on a tract of land measuring some 70 700 hectares.
The case that Erindi (Pty) Ltd filed against the minister of land reform, the chairperson of the Land Reform Advisory Commission and the attorney general in June 2017 was settled on Wednesday last week, according to a report that was filed at the Windhoek High Court on Thursday. In the report, it is stated that the case was settled on Wednesday evening, and the court was asked to remove the case from the court roll.
The company lodged the case after it offered the farms Erindi and Constantia, measuring some 65 000 hectares in size, for sale to the government “as a going concern” at a price of N$1,9 billion in January 2016. Nujoma responded to the offer in April 2016 by informing the company's lawyer that the asking price was considered to be too high, and that in his opinion, an amount of N$265 million was a reasonable price for the farms.
With the company having also asked the court to order that the land reform minister was deemed to have declined the offer to sell the farms to the state, and that Erindi (Pty) Ltd was entitled to be given a certificate of waiver confirming that the government would not be buying the farms, it emerged in November last year that former minister of lands and resettlement Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana had issued a certificate of waiver for the two farms in October 1999 already.
Such a waiver opens the way for a farm owner to sell his land to other buyers.