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Sunday 21 April 2019
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Chinese farm irks Groot Aub residents

On the outskirts of Groot Aub lies a garden that produces vegetables both familiar and unfamiliar to Namibians but for the exclusive benefit of the nutritional needs of the Chinese community in Namibia. The garden is fenced with razor wire and under the watchful eyes of CCTV cameras is a no-go area for the residents living there.
With a landmark second land conference taking center stage in Namibia this week, Chinese business people have focused their attention on buying or leasing farmland in a bid to provide food security for their own people. Concerns exist that the Chinese are taking over African states and communities and Namibia has been no exception. What is new however, is their entry into food production and their acquisition of farm land for food production.  Two months ago, this publication ran a series of articles on how the Chinese businesses are crippling local enterprises in the northern regions of the country.
Some underlying concerns include that Chinese nationals dodge their tax duties and they import most of their basic needs from China instead of supporting the local economy.
Windhoek has its own China Town thus far and a few Chinese enterprises are being opened on a daily basis. Most of these shops are open to Namibian consumers, but not the produce from the Chinese garden in Groot Aub.
According to the Groot Aub locals, the Chinese couple bought the land from a Namibian of German descent who ran a successful sheep farming operation.
Upon arrival at the premises, the team of The Patriot was told that they could not enter the garden, with the owner, Wang Meng, saying “if you enter, the plants will die.” Another one of her claims was the fear of the “Alibaba”, a phrase she uses to refer to thieves. The yard is closed off with nets that do not allow a passerby to see the inside.
With the help of police in the settlement, the team finally got access into the garden, where various vegetables are grown. The garden owner, Meng, said garden is just for the Chinese nationals in Namibia.
“We do not sell the vegetables to Namibians in the town or elsewhere. We sell to China Town shops in Windhoek where other Chinese get the vegetables. We also send some to Swakopmund. What we produce here is just for Chinese people and not Namibians,’ she emphasized.
The garden has five employees, four women and a man. Despite an 8 hour working, which includes working during the hottest time of the day, they claim to be employed on N$ 40 per day. For lunch, they eat left overs or vegetables past their expiry date.
“We don’t sell to Namibians because Namibians don’t like vegetables. They are not interested at all. I do not see why it is wrong to produce food for Chinese only,” she said. The garden has been operational since 2016.
China has in recent years worked hard to take total economic control of the continent. Official figures indicated that close to 1 million Chinese moved to Africa during the last decade.
Exclusive, gated compounds, serving only Chinese food, and where no blacks are allowed, are being built all over the continent.
Right at the entrance of the garden, is a Chinese shop which is the only thing the locals have access to. Employees in the shop also claim to never have seen the garden, except those who work in it.
“Why is it that we have to go buy food from Windhoek or Rehoboth when we have a garden here. It is a false that we do not like vegetables. Even our people who work on this garden do not get food from there. This is how it starts and we have seen it with their brick-making company and a bigger garden in Mariental and Rehoboth. The Chinese are here to make sure they capture the industry. If we don’t wake up, we will soon be dependent on China,” said Selma Amunyela.
According to the Chinese Embassy in Namibia, in 2017 there were up to 7000 self-employed Chinese businessmen in Namibia and over 60 enterprises registered. Consultancy firm McKinsey the same year indicated in July that up to 10 000 Chinese businesses may be active in Africa, dwarfing previous estimates. This is from the total of about 100 000 Chinese in Namibia last year. Treasury has over the past years discovered that paying taxes has become an eluded responsibility and it is no surprise that several Chinese owned businesses often face accusations of extensively practicing tax avoidance and tax evasion in the country. This is another area of concern.
A total of 12 382 commercial farms and portions of farms in Namibia accounts for 39.7 million hectares, of which 97.7% is owned by Namibians. Much of the 39.7 million hectares of land (34 million hectares) is privately owned (86%) while government owns the remaining 5.4 million hectares of land (14%). Previously advantaged Namibians own 27.8 million hectares (70%) of the freehold agricultural land, while previously disadvantaged Namibians own only 6.4 million hectares (16%).
Non-Namibians own 1.2 million hectares (3%) of land. German nationals, owning 639 667 hectares of land in Namibia, top the list of foreign nationals owning land in Namibia, followed by South Africans who own 353 875 hectares, and Americans owning 82 024 hectares.




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