…land activists blame Swapo for shocking stats
The country’s majority population, black Africans, own the smallest percentage of the country’s private land, compared to their white counterparts, who own 70% of the land, official statistics revealed.
Government acquired more than 3 million hectares under the national resettlement programme while 3.4 million were acquired through the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme under the Agricultural Bank of Namibia from 1992 – 2018.
The statistics are contained in a 48-page report titled Namibia Land Statistics 2018, commissioned by the Namibia’s Statistics Agency(NSA).
Namibia has a history of colonial conquest and dispossession that pushed the black majority into crowded urban townships and rural areas.
While blacks account for 80 percent of Namibia’s population, whites continue to be the majority land owners. The report has confirmed perceptions that most privately owned land remains in white hands, with many warning that the prevailing situation is untenable because it is a potent symbol of the wider economic and wealth disparities that remain almost three decades after the end of white-minority rule.
The report shows that freehold agricultural (commercial) land constitutes 42% of the land surface followed by communal/customary land at 35%.
State land which includes parks, restricted areas, townland boundaries and government farms in freehold agricultural land accounts for only 23% of the country’s land mass.
“In terms of freehold agricultural land which constitutes 39.7 million hectares of the country, previously advantaged farmers own 27.9 million hectares (70%) while the previously disadvantaged community own 6.4 million hectares (16%).
It further shows that government owns only 5.4 million hectares (14%).
Females only own 23% of the freehold agricultural land while the remaining 77% is owned by males.
Private commercial banks funded 2.8 million hectares during the same period.
Namibia was third in terms of the highest percentage of private land ownership (44%) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2010. The highest percentage private land ownership was in Mauritius (80%) followed by South Africa at 72%.
The Ministry of Land Reform’s agricultural (commercial) land valuation roll of 2012 – 2017 has a record number of 12 382 farmland consisting of farms and portions of farms.
The farmland totals 39 728 364 million hectares and is inclusive of agricultural government land such as farms for research, resettlement, and servitudes. The 12 382 agricultural (commercial) land consists of 7 506 (61%) farms and 4 876 (39%) portions of farms.
The report also shows that individuals own 52.2% of 12 382 farms and farm portions followed by companies (close corporations and Pty) at 31.5% and government at 13.8%. Farmers association, foundations, estates and churches each owns less than 2% land.
Most of the commercial farms and portions of farms, according to the report, are owned by Namibians at 38 345 295 hectares (97.7%). The second largest farmland ownership is non-Namibians at 1 206 017 hectares (2.0%). Joint ownership of Namibians and non-Namibians accounts for only 177 052 hectares (0.3%) of the commercial farms.
“A total of 250 farms and farm portions, covering 1 206 017 hectares, are owned by foreign nationals. It is worth mentioning that 639 667 hectares (53.0%) of the land is owned by German nationals, followed by South Africans with 353 875 hectares (29.3%) and Americans with 82 024 hectares (6.8%),” the report shows.
Blacks continue to lag behind when it comes to land ownership despite the government’s efforts to redistribute land to the black majority. There are two main agricultural land acquisition programmes funded by the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank)-Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS) and private acquisition of commercial farmland through commercial banks.
“A total of 882 farms were acquired through Agribank in eight (8) regions of the country since 1992. The regions are Erongo, Hardap, //Kharas, Omaheke, Otjozondjupa, Oshikoto, Kunene and Khomas. The extent in hectares covered by these farms is 6 261 090. Out of this, 3 407 368 hectares were acquired through the AALS,” shows the report. It also shows that females only acquired 10% of the farms while their male counterparts acquired 60% under AALS.
“Using both the Agribank statistics and NAU (2016) data, it is clear that by June 2018 previously disadvantaged privately funded land acquisition only accounts for 2 853 722 hectares (46%) of the privately funded freehold agricultural land, while AALS acquired 3 407 368 hectares (54%) of land,” the report notes.
In South Africa, the ANC has followed a “willing-seller, willing-buyer” model since the end of apartheid in 1994, under which the government buys white-owned farms for redistribution to blacks. It did not yield the desired results.
Critics allege that many farms transferred to emerging black farmers under the resettlement programme have failed because of a lack of state support and lack of farming knowledge among black farmers.
In a 2012 interview with international television network, Al Jazeera, former President Hifikepunye Pohamba warned of a potential land revolution if the current status quo persists.
“Since people have no land they have no means of production. We need to amend the constitution otherwise we will face a revolution, and if it happens land will be taken over by the revolutionaries,” Pohamba warned at the time.
Land activists react
The Affirmative Repositioning movement says it is not surprised by the total hectares of land owned by white people, further cautioning that a time will come when the landless masses will revolt.
“This is what we have been saying all along that whites have the land, we want them to come to the table and understand the plea of majority, if they keep ignoring us we will take it by force,” warned AR activist George Kambala yesterday while commenting on the NSA report.
He added: “We will not be as peaceful as we are right now, but I can guarantee you that a time will come when the black majority takes the land, when that times comes there will not be negotiations.”
“The Constitution provides for land expropriation without compensation for public benefit, it is high time that government activates that clause. Everyone’s voice must be heard, but if we are done talking we will take matters in own hands, put sand in their food and reclaim their land,” he commented.
Landless People’s Movement leader Bernadus Swartbooi said should the figures be accurate, it merely points out the failure of the ruling party Swapo to effectively deal with the land issue.
Swartbooi said the statistics are a reflection of how the Party has been captured and unable to use its two-thirds majority to solve the land question.
“We no longer have to entertain the question of what should be done because the solutions are there and the ruling party should use the power they have to expropriate land. It is a matter of doing it now. We need to expropriate the land. But for Swapo, it will be difficult because most of them are compromised,” said Swartbooi.
Swartbooi made reference to farms that have been turned into residential areas with no interference from the relevant authorities as a contributing factor.
“All these developments are happening under the nose of Swapo but nothing is done. For some reason, the party still believes it can afford to have wrong priorities. They are simply out of options when it comes to land,” said the land leader, adding that the land conference will not bring about any solutions to address the land question.