Land Bill is too simplistic

One-size-fits-all is no solution

16 February 2017 | Agriculture

CATHERINE SASMAN

A paper suggests that more thorough consultation is required on the Land Bill instead of it being removed from the public eye.

The Institute for Public Policy Review (IPPR) has suggested a thorough policy review of the entire land reform process before public comments are invited or the Land Bill is tabled in the National Assembly.

It says failure to recognise and analyse some of the complex and subtle differences in land issues across the country has resulted in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ legal framework that appears to be working in some regions, was rejected in others, and was perceived as useless in communal areas that depend on livestock farming.

It says the absence of meaningful consultation in preparation of the land policy and Land Act “reflects political short-term expediency” rather than addressing real land administration and tenure issues and removes policymaking from the public eye.

“Making land policy and laws in Namibia is largely the prerogative of politicians. This risks a situation where political expediency rather than long-term solutions are reflected in policy and legislation,” the IPPR says.

It suggests that the land and agricultural sectors need to be integrated in a comprehensive agrarian reform programme.

THE BILL

The Land Bill tabled in November last year by minister of land reform Utoni Nujoma aims to consolidate and amend the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act of 1995 and the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002 to ensure that all land in Namibia has the same status.

It provides for a unitary land system where Namibian citizens have equal rights, opportunities and security with regard to land irrespective of where the land is situated.

The IPPR says although the Bill has all the hallmarks of legislation drafted without a comprehensive policy framework, it does introduce a number of positive changes to existing laws.

One of the proposed changes is that procedures to appeal against decisions in traditional authorities and land boards in communal areas have been clarified.

However, the IPPR says, whether aggrieved parties can access the proposed process remains to be seen.

The bill also provides more detail on customary land rights and the modalities of where customary land rights apply.

The IPPR says while it improves the accountability of traditional authorities in general, it does not go far enough to enforce accountability.

In the commercial farming sector the bill seems to weaken the powers and functions of the Land Reform Advisory Commission (LRAC), the IPPR says.

Here, the lands minister is empowered to take decisions on several important aspects of land reform without consulting the LRAC.

The two main farmers’ unions - the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) and the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) - would no longer be automatically represented on the LRAC.

Regional resettlement committees are to be established but their powers and functions are not detailed in the bill.

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