George Santayana (1906) once said: “… Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. The decision by the Namibian Government to enter into a dubious agreement with a Russian billionaire, Rashid Sardarov, has historical antecedents which resulted in dire consequences in later years. Prior to the decision of Imperial Germany to acquire colonial possessions, Adolf Luderitz, a merchant from Bremen, in Germany, decided to erect a factory at the west coast of South West Africa. On 1May 1883, Luderitz, through his agent Vogelsang, entered into Agreement with Josef Frederiks, the Kaptain of Bethanie, whereby the harbour of Angra Pequena was sold together with the surrounding land within the radius of eight kilometres. On 25 August 1883, a second land purchase was made for the whole coastline from Angra Pequena to the Orange River.
These purchases enabled Luderitz to seek protection for his possessions from the German Government. The German Government obliged. South West Africa became a Germany colony. The result was the destruction of the traditional systems of governance and the subjugation of the Black man to the White man. The dire historical consequences of Kaptein Frederiks are still with us today.
The transaction which the Namibian Government entered in secrecy with the Russian oligarchy has far reaching consequences as far as the land question in Namibia is concerned. Through Executive fiat the Government has set a serious precedent regarding land ownership in our country. Firstly, a new procedure of agricultural land acquisition by foreigners has been established.
Now foreigners can acquire agricultural land through the system of leasehold. Secondly, foreigners with deep pockets can acquire large trucks of land without limit. Thirdly, the idea of one person one farm is dead as a dodo. Fourthly, expropriation of the land of absentee land lords is not possible any more. The Sardarov precedency will be cited by those whose land will become the target of expropriation.
The long- term result of Sardarov Agreement with the Namibian Government is that any foreigner now has a right to purchase at least five farms, like Sardarov did before he wanted another three farms which he eventually bought and “donated” to Government. He leased these farms from Government on 99 years lease.
Namibia is indeed up for grabs! Foreigners, provided they have money to entice a broke Government into dubious deals, have now a field day as far as land purchases are concerned.
The transaction between the new Tzar of Dordabis and the Namibian Government took place just two weeks before the Second Land Conference which was held from October1-5, 2018.
The question the Government must answer is: why dupe Conference participants in believing that resolutions of the Conference will help to advance the resolution of the land question in the country, while Government knew that through Executive fiat it has re-written the rules? This was an abuse of public resources and the time of Conference participants. Government owes those who participated in the Conference an apology.
Take for example, resolutions regarding expropriation of foreign owned lands, Government knew in advance that it was not possible under the current circumstances. The Sardarov case has set a president. In addition, the resolution on suspending the “willing seller willing buyer” has opened the flood gated of land acquisition in the country. The Constitution allows owners of properties including land to dispose their properties as they wish.
Under the current circumstances the Ministry of Land Reform shall have no option but to give waiver to whoever intends to sell land. Buying land in Namibia is now a free for all. Billionaires can now come and buy up Namibian land without restriction.
According to the principle of non- discrimination in foreign direct investment, all investors whether foreigners or local shall be treated the same. Thus, any foreign wanting to buy land shall be treated the same as Sardarov.
Another, political deception is the resolution on ancestral land. The proposed Commission on Ancestral land is simply a political ploy to perpetuate the political division between the North and the South.
There are lessons- of- history in this regard. In 1885, Will Worthington Jordan bought the land between Outjo and Grootfontein from King Kambonde ka Mpingana of Western Ondonga. Jordan wanted to establish the so-called Upingtonia Republic for Boers returning from Angola.
Both Hehero Chiefs, Kamaharero and Manasse disputed this land transaction claiming jurisdiction over the area.
Nehale lya Mpingana of Eastern Ondonga also claimed jurisdiction over the area. He took action and eliminated Jordan to free his land from foreign occupation. How would the Ancestral Land Commission resolve such historical claims! Such a Commission shall only add oil to the burning tribal claims.
The Second Land Conference was the greatest deception of our times. It served no purpose at all. The land question can only be addressed by determining the land needs of all our people. There are those who need land to do commercial farming. There are those who need land for agronomic farming.
There are those who need land for conservancies. There are those who need land for urban housing. There are those who need land for rural development. There are those who need for cultural tourism.
Land should be distributed according to various needs under the principles of equity, fairness, justice and sharing.
In meantime Government should urgently restore legality through Parliament on land acquisition and distribution. It should undo its Executive fiat which has a potential of making Namibian land a free for all affair. The Sardarov debacle must be undone! God save the Republic!