'Ban foreigner land sales'

The traditional authorities say they represent those who remain landless in their own motherland.

31 May 2019 | Local News

Sixteen traditional authorities have appealed to the government to place a moratorium on the sale of land to foreigners.

They also asked the government not to allow close corporations in which foreigners have controlling interests to acquire land in Namibia until mechanisms to address restorative justice are put in place. These should include policy and legal frameworks for the expropriation of land.

The traditional authorities also want the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Claims of Ancestral Land Rights and Restitution to be published.

In a statement issued by these traditional authorities questions were raised about the recent acquisition of land in Namibia by foreigners despite resolutions made at the second national land conference.

Specific mention was made of Russian oligarch Rashid Sardarov, who bought four farms in the Dordabis area, and Mexican billionaire Alberto Bailleres, who is finalising a sales agreement to purchase Erindi Private Game Reserve.

The statement points out that the land conference adopted resolutions which included that foreign-owned agricultural land should be expropriated with just compensation, a stand-alone law on expropriation should be passed, and that the sale of farmland through subdivision or ownership by close corporations, companies and any other entities should be restricted.





Furthermore, it was resolved to identify alternative measures to restore social justice and ensure economic empowerment of the affected communities to formulate legislation to cater for ancestral land claims and restitution and to develop land allocation mechanisms that prioritise the most affected communities.

“These reoccurring tendencies of irresponsible behaviour which are tantamount and being perceived as self-enrichment and corruption of some crooked executives and politicians who act with impunity and conniving with foreign nationals to acquire our ancestral land will be met with resistance in the not too distant future. The people will rise to the challenge,” the statement reads.

The traditional authorities said that by law and tradition they represent people who have been made landless in their own motherland and that they cannot allow a situation whereby their ancestral land will be sold irresponsibly.

“We really do not want to be in conflict with our government but if sensitive issues like our ancestral land restoration are not taken seriously we cannot sit and fold our hands.”

They further appealed to the government to uphold principles of accountability, transparency, integrity and honesty. According to them these principles seem to be absent at the moment when dealing with very important, emotive, bread-and-butter matters of ancestral land which are in the interest of peace and stability.

“It is absolutely imperative that the land issue is handled with care and intellect because of the importance and sensitivity of the matter at hand.”

A statement issued on behalf of Mexican billionaire Bailleres on the proposed sale of Erindi said the transaction-oriented due diligence confirmed that Erindi would not be suitable for farming or resettlement, but holds important potential as an area for wildlife conservation.

The agreement with the Russian oligarch Sardarov was signed about two weeks before Namibia's second national land conference.

According to the agreement Sardarov bought the four farms and would donate them to the Namibian government in exchange for a 99-year lease.

Saradov paid 2 500 per hectare for the four farms, totalling around N$43.5 million. Farm Rainhoff, Kameelboom and Smaldeel, totalling 11 402 hectares, were sold as a unit for N$28.5 million while Farm Wolfsgrund was sold for N$14.9 million and is 5 989 hectares in size.

Under lease agreement Saradov would pay N$160 168 in rent for the first quarter of each year in 2018/19 and thereafter the land tax paid by owners of commercial farms must be paid.

Saradov now has in his control slightly more than 45 000 hectares of land in Namibia.

He already owned a 28 000-hectare Dordabis farm housing Marula Game Lodge, and previously indicated his intention to acquire a further 18 000 hectares of neighbouring farms.







ELLANIE SMIT

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