Namibia to follow in the footsteps of South Africa with its proposed land reforms

Following South Africa’s landslide vote in the parliament regarding land expropriation without compensation, Namibia’s President Hage Geingob has urged Namibians to participate in land expropriation talks.

In a bid to ease political and ethnic tensions over the transfer of wealth to its majority black population Geingob said, “I believe that we should have difficult conversations, as Namibians with the aim of finding peaceful and sustainable solutions to the challenges of inequality, landlessness and outstanding pains of genocide.”

The southern African country plans to hold a national land conference from October 1st to October 5th, 2018 to discuss policies that will accelerate the land reform, address the willing-seller, willing-buyer principle, ancestral land claims for restitution, expropriation in public interest with just compensation, urban land reform and resettlement criteria.

The President admitted that the colour of a person’s skin does not make him less of a citizen, however, as the country’s first prime minister, who also participated in drafting the Namibian constitution to protect property rights of people who owned land prior to independence, he noted that he is under increasing pressure to return ancestral lands to the rightful owners.

“It is true that they came and stole the land 100 years ago, but a white boy who was born on that land has Namibian blood,” Geingob said.

Discussions to return the land to the aborigines became imminent when Namibia announced in 2016 that German citizens own 141 out of the 281 farms that belonged to foreign nationals. It also discovered that more than 108 farms measuring over 450,000 hectares are owned by South Africans.

Namibia was a German colony from 1884 to 1915. Apartheid South Africa then took over and ruled the country until 1990 when it gained its independence. Upon securing independence, Namibia started a land reform programme but opted to use the willing buyer-willing seller system to buy lands at market prices from private farm owners who owned the land before independence.

The October conference would decide if the expropriation talks are with or without compensation. However, the country plans to transfer 43 percent (15 million hectares) of its arable agricultural land to previously disadvantaged blacks by 2020. According to the Namibia Agriculture Union, 27 percent of the land was redistributed in 2015.