31 May 2019

Namibia: Traditional Leaders Oppose Erindi Sale to Foreigners

Photo: The Namibian
The Erindi private game reserve has been on the market for five years for nearly N$2 billion (U.S.$141,2 million).

Windhoek — A group of 16 disgruntled Traditional Authorities (TAs) has warned government that the continued sale of land to foreign nationals at the expense of those who lost their ancestral land might spark civil unrest.

The group made their disappointment known on Tuesday through a joint media statement. According to their petition, it is distasteful that the same government that oversaw a land indaba which resolved that foreign-owned agricultural land should be expropriated with just compensation is now presiding over the sale of land to foreign nationals.

"We are taken by surprise and perplexed at recent media reports about the purchase of our ancestral land by foreign nationals and close corporations or companies in which the majority or controlling interest or shareholding are not owned by Namibian nationals, especially those who were dispossessed of the land themselves," the document said.

The TAs made reference to the government's reported decision to sell a Russian billionaire, Rashid Sardarov, four farms for N$ 207 million in September 2018, just a few days before the second national land conference.

The most recent disturbing development for the traditional leaders is the reported sale of Erindi Game Reserve to Mexican billionaire Alberto Bailleres, for around N$2 billion in a deal subject to approval by the Namibian Competition Commission.

Information minister and government spokesperson Stanley Simataa last month revealed that government - which is given preference in any land deal - abandoned its plans to buy Erindi as it could not afford it.

The TA group goes on to say it has no intention whatsoever to come into conflict with the government.

"But if sensitive issues like our ancestral land restoration are not being taken seriously, we cannot sit and fold our hands," it said.

The joint statement was penned by the Maharero, Goliath, Ovambanderu, Zeraeua, Kambazembi, Vaalgras, Otjikaoko and Vita Royal houses and/or TAs.

The Kakurukouje, Kasaona, Ondanga, Mureti, Okakarara, Ovatjimba, Aminius and Otjombinde TAs are also signatories to the statement.

Earlier this year, President Hage Geingob appointed the commission of inquiry into ancestral land claims and restitution, which seeks to investigate claims of ancestral land and make appropriate recommendations for implementation.

Efforts to get comment from the Land Reform Ministry proved futile, as its Executive Director Peter Amutenya could not be reached on his mobile phone.

Detailed questions sent to Amutenya were also not responded to at the time of going for press.

When contacted for comment on Tuesday, Simataa declined to comment on the matter.

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