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Namibia holds land conference to discuss land expropriation

Namibia is currently having a land discussion, and is considering land expropriation. After the failure of the “willing-seller-willing-buyer” approach, the government is having a debate on land expropriation, and intends to give land back to the majority black people.



The question of land expropriation has recently found its gaze in Southern Africa, South Africa to be precise. However, another southern African country is also having debate about land, Namibia. Namibia gained independence on 21 March 1990 from South Africa after being colonised initially by Germany. Just like South Africa, the Apartheid laws were applied to the country, and also, just like South Africa, land was taken away from the black Africans.

With the discussion of land expropriation without compensation becoming the centre of national discourse in South Africa, neighbouring Namibia has also had to look at land ownership. Currently, a second land conference is taking place in Namibia. However, many white commercial farmers did not attend the meeting.

Last year during Namibia’s 27th independence celebrations, the country’s President Hage Geingob  said, “we need to refer back to our Constitution which allows for the expropriation of land with fair compensation and also look at foreign ownership of land, especially absentee land owners.” Namibia first used the “willing-seller-willing-buyer” approach to tackle the land imbalances but the approach has not be successful in redressing the colonial land ownership patterns.

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According to The Namibian, the country has 32.6 million hectares of communal land and 37.5 million of privately owned land. However, the land issue has stirred up emotions, and as was the case in South Africa, Zimbabwe has been cited as a bad example of what could happen if land is taken from white commercial farmers. There are arguments that following the Zimbabwe model could disrupt food production, and property rights laws would need to be taken into consideration in the ongoing debates.

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Most land owned by white farmers in Namibia was gotten through inheritance, traceable to colonialism. The white farmers have used the argument that they significantly contribute to the economy to justify holding to their large tracts of land while many blacks remain dispossessed.

The white farmers are arguing that land expropriation should be done within the framework that guarantees property rights, with a fair amount of compensation. For land that was gotten through unjust Apartheid laws and colonialism, it’s indeed a high moral call to want to determine how that land should be redistributed.