By: Justicia Shipena
The land reform ministry says it does not support the idea of having separate legislation addressing land ownership by foreign nationals.
This was revealed by the ministry’s Petrus Nangolo from the land reform department on Tuesday during a public hearing with the standing committee on natural resources.
The delegation was responding to a petition by the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) on regulating foreign ownership of land.
In March 2019, AR submitted the bill on foreign land ownership to the parliamentarian standing committee on natural resources.
According to Nangolo, the current land bill has extensively covered all issues raised by AR, especially on the part of the object of the submissions.
While adding that, they should be able to add the definition of lease as the current land bill did not define what is a term to be a lease.
He added that communal land means land referred to in section 17 of the agricultural, commercial land reform act.
“Communal land is already defined unless otherwise something is added to communal land or subtraction is done,” he said.
CONCERN ABOUT INVESTMENT
Nangolo said the ministry would maintain the current provisions of section 2 in the land.
“The current provisions of that section are extensive compared to the one of AR. We feel the proposal from the ministry is broader than the one from AR, which is a bit narrow,” he explained.
On the transfer of communal land, he stated that the ministry supports the utilisation of communal land by non-Namibians but strictly through lease and partnership.
“Hence the ministry has a reservation on that. We are saying that currently, communal land is not all of it is productive, and our call is to make all our land productive.”
Additionally, he said the ministry believes that limiting Namibians only to be the ones to access communal land may exclude other suitable investments for the benefit of the country.
“The petition states that foreign nationals may only lease the land invested in section 1 for commercial purposes and are prohibited from leasing any agricultural or communal land. The ministry is not in support of this proposal,” said Nangolo.
In this vein, he added that Namibia needs to improve food security; in some cases, major agricultural projects are inevitable.
“For economic growth, foreign nationals must access agricultural land through strict control,” he adds.
The petition also calls for the expropriation of land owned by foreigners. However, he said what the AR had suggested is already covered in the current land bill.
“This provision cannot be accommodated in the land bill because if that is the intention, further discussion is needed with the urban ministry.”
Nangolo also suggested that the committee engage the attorney general’s office to articulate the laws and decide which one will be supreme and which will be a subordinate law.
“So, we want this matter to be discussed with the attorney general’s office,” Nangolo said.
FAILED TO SUBMIT FACTS
Previously, the parliamentary standing committee on natural resources, which Tjekero Tweya chairs, sent officials from the land reform ministry packing.
At that time, the committee stressed it was not satisfied with the ministry’s presentation in responding to the petition AR,
According to the committee, the ministry failed to give factual information and evidence regarding foreign land ownership in Namibia.
They also sought the ministry to furnish evidence that the committee could rely on to conclude or address the petition.
Last month, AR deputy leader Dimbulukeni Nauyoma said that the only guaranteed land Namibia youth will own is their graves.
Nauyoma also said the movement believes that the National Assembly has been complicit in the pressing legal and social-economic regime.
He expressed that it continues to suppress the people’s hopes and subjected them to the state of being landless, homeless, subjected to arbitrary eviction, the harshness of the rental market, and inhumane living conditions on the farms and informal settlements.
While AR leader Job Amupanda said that Namibia’s landmass is 800 thousand square kilometres, only 39 million hectares can be considered freehold agricultural land.
He further narrated that of 39 million hectares, 70 per cent of it is owned by white people; meanwhile, black people own 16 per cent of this agricultural land.
Amupanda added that the government only owns 5 million hectares of this land, equivalent to 14 per cent.
He had also expressed that 250 farms measuring 1.2 million hectares of land are owned by foreigners.
At that time, Amupanda said the draft bill stated that foreign nationals might only utilise land in Namibia.
According to the bill, foreign nationals may only lease the land as envisaged in section 5 for commercial purposes and are prohibited from leasing any agricultural or communal land.
“No lease period exceeding ten years shall be valid. However, the lease agreement may be renewed upon application by the partnership,” it reads.
The bill also stated that if the land is lawfully owned by a foreign national before the commencement of the act, such land shall remain owned by the foreigner. Still, it cannot be transferred or bequeathed to another foreign national after the act.
It further indicated that a Namibia national should only affect ownership or transfer after that.
Moreover, it demands that the state expropriate foreign agricultural land within three years from the date of the commencement of the act, in accordance with the existing laws.
While, on communal land, the bill states that no foreign national can utilise communal land for any purpose.