11 June 2019

Namibia: Law Still Allows Sale of Land to Foreigners - PM

Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has said Namibian laws still allow land to be sold to foreigners, despite calls by the public to ban the practice.

Although the second national land conference held last year passed resolutions to ban the sale of land to foreigners, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said existing laws still permit it.

She made this statement at a media briefing last week when she addressed executive directors on various issues hampering the government's service delivery.

The prime minister was asked on whether the government would allow the private Erindi game reserve to be sold to Mexican businessman and philanthropist Alberto Baillères while there were standing resolutions from the second national land conference that prohibited the practice.

Baillères had been tipped to buy Namibia's most significant privately owned game reserve located south-east of Omaruru, which has been on the market for five years, for nearly N$2 billion.

Erindi game reserve is made up of three farms, namely Farm Erindi, Constantia and Otjimukaru, situated between Okahandja and Omaruru, measuring a combined 65 000 hectares.

The government earlier this year abandoned its plans to buy the game reserve because it could not afford it, clearing the way for private investors to buy it.

It is, however, not clear whether the government would impose any conditions on the ownership of the reserve.

During last week's event, the prime minister said the government would not get involved in the sale of Erindi because it was a private transaction.

She said this transaction was, however, regulated by an act of parliament.

Although there are people calling for the government to stop this transaction, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said it would not be possible because the existing laws still allow the sale of land to foreigners.

She stated that the government had last year attempted to repeal the provision that allows the sale of land to foreigners, but it met with protests from members of the public, with some accusing the government of pre-empting the outcome of the land conference.

"It is because of that that our laws still provide for the sale of land to foreigners. We have indicated that the government does not have the means to buy that land. In that case, the government is still empowered by the law to authorise the sale of the land to a foreigner," she explained. Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the government thus fully recognises and embraces its responsibility as a primary custodian of the interests of Namibian people, adding that the government would not "deliberately do anything that will compromise the people's interests".

"Whatever is going to happen is going to happen within the law, and our efforts continue as a government to operationalise the resolutions that were adopted at the land conference in order for us to ensure that Namibians who currently do not have access to land are assisted to have access to such land," she continued.

Servaas van den Bosch, a director of Emergo, the company providing public relations services to Baillères, stated that the transaction was still being independently considered by the Namibian Competition Commission (NCC).

The NCC investigates whether mergers or acquisitions stifle competition, or create undue market dominance.

Van den Bosch said a waiver was duly obtained from the land reform ministry, and that the agriculture ministry has given consent for the transaction to take place between Erindi and Rembo Ltd (Baillères' company), without any conditions.

"The Ministry of Trade, Industrialisation and SME Development, under the Foreign Investment Act of 1990, has issued a certificate of status investment, approving Mr Baillères as an investor," he stated.

Van den Bosch added that Baillères would only complete the purchase of Erindi if all legal requirements are in place, and if he and the investment he intends to make is welcomed by Namibia.

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