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No Foreigners Will Own Land Under A Freehold Title in Communal Land- Schlettwein

By: Eba Kandovazu

Land reform minister Calle Schlettwein says that no one, foreigners included, can own land under a freehold title in communal land, but that freehold title and ownership in towns and cities is allowed.

He said towns and cities within communal land are demarcated, surveyed and no longer, after proclamation, form part of communal land. Schlettwein said that Green-schemes are still part of communal land, so freehold title ownership is not possible.

Schlettwein took issue with Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) president McHenry Venaani saying that giving away communal land to foreigners is not a solution but rather a disappointment to the black community. Venaani was quoted saying his party rejects the notion of ownership of communal land by foreigners.

Schlettwein also said his response follows his ministry’s consultation on the AR petition with the parliamentary committee on Natural Resources. “The consultation was necessary as the ministry is moving towards finalising the land Bill, which we intend to table before parliament later this year,” he said.

“There are different rights that can be granted for different land uses in Namibia. Among others, these are Right of Leaseholds, Customary Land Rights and Occupational Land Rights in case of institutions which offer public service. This is provided for under Section 19 and 36 A of the Communal Land Reform Act, Act No 5 of 2002 and the Communal Land Reform Amendment Act, No 13 of 2013, respectively,” Shchletwein stated.

According to the land reform minister, investors have transformed the traditionally underutilised state land in Aussenkehr into immense production.

“This Aussenkehr example is self-outstanding, especially in the agriculture sector, and it is good if it can be replicated in other unproductive lands in the country. It is for the same purpose the land bill is promoting to unleash the economic potential of the communal areas. It is protecting the land owners, the investment and financiers.”

Explaining the land allocation process in communal areas, the minister said any leasehold below 10 years with a land size below 100 hectares can be approved by a particular Communal Land Board in the regions. However, he said, leases which exceed 10 years and the land size involved is above 100 hectares are recommended by the Boards to the minister for approval.

“I must, however, emphasise here that it is not and has never been the practice of government to impose leaseholds and foreign investors upon local communities on communal land. In all cases, Traditional Authorities are the main drivers by exercising their power of primary land allocation,” he stressed.

He said non-Namibians are allowed by law to lease land for investment purposes only, for up to 25 years with an option to renew, further bearing in mind the social responsibility of such an investor to the community.

“A lease agreement as per our common law shall be for 99 years which is a maximum and a ceiling for a contractual agreement. However, every decision-making body, for example, the Communal Land Board and the minister of agriculture, water and land reform, may arrive at a different lease period for different investment projects. Therefore one would need substantial business information to make a reasonable decision for a given lease period. In Namibia currently, it’s only native Namibians who enjoy the prestige that comes with the 99 years lease, either to establish a crop field, a shop or a house in communal area,” Schlettwein stated.

According to the minister, the current land Bill is trying to ensure that foreigners can partner with citizens to exploit potential in the communal areas.

“At times we are puzzled when government is bringing development to the people and giving its citizen an opportunity to find partners or investors and access to finances some people are blocking it by spreading rumours that are unfounded,” Schlettwein lamented.

Eba Kandovazu

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