How just is “just land compensation?” - Critics query
The land conference resolution to abolish the willing-buyer-willing-seller in favour of expropriation with just compensation will set government in a financial trap and burden to appease farmers money-wise, independent critics and analysts have submitted.
The conference has not brought about fundamental changes in the approach to land reform, and will likely see itself facing the same old challenges when some farmers begin to refuse government’s definition of what should be considered as just compensation.
This view was submitted by prominent political commentator and academic, Ndumba Kamwanya.
He submitted that “just compensation” also involved the farmer’s willingness to accept government’s offer.
Said the analyst, “You should look at the willing-seller-willing-buyer. It’s an old concept that is very essential to everything that we do as a society that if I am giving you something, I have to be willing and you have to be willing also to accept it.”
“It’s just that we phrase it in the economic aspect but it’s very essential also for every interaction that we do, that there has to be that willingness from both sides. So really I don’t know what they are abolishing exactly.”
“So what needs to be done is that we need to define what is going to replace this. What do we mean that it is abolished? We cannot just say it is abolished without a replacement. And finding that appropriate replacement is where we are going to have trouble.”
At the end of it, Kamwanyah said, expropriation remains willing-buyer-willing-seller in a different form.
Yet the commitment to offer compensation will bring for the government the burden to collect money, while at the moment it is an open secret that it is cash-strapped due to the economic bind.
In order to raise revenue to support land reform, the government has imposed a land tax on commercial agricultural land of which a cumulative amount of N$350 million has been collected so far.
Ahead of the conference resolutions, government via an income tax bill, introduced withholding tax on dividends paid to Namibian residents and suggested taxation for business income of churches.
It also proposed new tax rates of 39% and 40% for persons earning over N$1.5 million and N$2.5 million.
Yet it is yet to be seen whether the recent proposals will make the cut that is needed to round up funds to allow the government to expropriate and effectively compensate.
Said Kamwanya, “People are blaming the willing-buyer-willing-seller saying that it failed. What failed is that we did not put in money to buy those farms and we are going to find ourselves in the same situation that we were in.”
“It means that government has, really, to allocate enough funds to compensate those farmers. To compensate the owners, we need funds,” said the analyst.
Self-styled radical land activist and former Swapo enthusiast, Benedict Louw, said the conference was a sham, simply had a copy-paste approach in its policies and failed to come close to drastically changing the approach to land reform.
“There is nothing fundamental which has shifted in terms of what will enable us to redistribute land to the landless black majority. Former presidents Hifikepunye Pohamba and Sam Safishuna Nujoma said let’s have a referendum to see whether we can expropriate land without compensation.”
“That is the only way we can fundamentally change land ownership in our country and as a consequence of that, that’s how we will be able to see drastic changes in terms of current inequalities.”
“You will know that we are second globally in terms of inequality. For a country with a population of 2.4 million people, it can’t be. That’s why each year we are being categorised as a middle-income country,” he said.
What is apparent from the congress resolutions is that delegates successfully steered the Namibian ship away from a path of blood-shed that Zimbabwe took back in 2 000 through its fast-tracked reform process.
However, Kamwanyah said there is going to be unintended consequences ahead, being the financial implication and public frustration.
Will the Zimbabwean formula be forever avoidable”?
“We might even end up resorting to a fast-track process, the Zimbabwean style. When you do that, you know what happened in Zimbabwe,” Kamwanya weighed in.