The ticking bomb.

Author:Nanyeni, Saima
Position:Brief Article

Undoubtedly influenced by what is happening in Zimbabwe, black Namibians whose ancestral lands were forcibly taken by the German and other colonialists, are saying they may have to do "a Zimbabwe" in the end, if no amicable solution is found to the land issue in Namibia.

Ten years after independence in 1990, many black Namibians are still without land compared to the white minority who still occupies most of the fertile land in the country.

It all started at the end of the 19th century when German colonisers took the land from the natives and divided it up among themselves. Black Namibians were, and still are, employed as lowly-paid labourers on the farms.

Today, Namibia, a country of about 1.8 million people, has 6,000 commercial farms, 65% of which are owned by whites and 35% by blacks. Foreigners own 2% of the 65% owned by whites.

Commercial agriculture contributes about N$810m a year to the economy (about 6% of GDP). However, nearly 70% of blacks live and are being sustained by communal agriculture, and contribute just about 3% to GDP.

As part of the independence settlement, the national constitution obliged the Namibian state to compensate black Namibians for their lost lands, thus making it expensive for the state to redistribute commercial lands.

To be fair, the government has not been sitting on its hands. A year after gaining independence on 21 March 1990, it convened a historical "Land Reform Conference" which discussed the land issue in depth. The conference, however, strangely decided that issues relating to ancestral land claims would not be entertained.

The injustice in that decision has led to calls by both the ruling and opposition parties, ordinary people, pan-Africanists and human rights groups for a second land conference. They all want the "willing seller, willing buyer concept" that has kept most of the best ancestral lands in the hands of whites, to be removed.

Hifikepunye Pohamba, general secretary of the ruling SWAPO party, said recently: "The advantaged classes of the colonial rule in this country are reluctant to sell pare of their land to the state on the basis of the 'willing seller, willing buyer' policy. As such the government cannot acquire land when and where it wants it."

In the First National Development Plan (NDP1) adopted in 1990, the government planned to buy 150,000 hectares of farmland to resettle 14,000 people by this year. The Ministry of Lands later admitted that it had underestimated the target. So...

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