The history of Southern Africa is replete with white settlers seizing land from the indigenous owners of the land; Africans, who were pushed to arid areas and confined in their movement. In South Africa, Zimbabwe, and now Namibia, the land question has been a major talking point, with calls and campaigns that the land should be returned to the original Black owners.
In a 48 page report titled Namibia Land Statistics the Namibia Statistics Agency announced that 70 per cent of arable land is owned by white farmers in Namibia. Despite gaining independence nearly 30 years ago, a huge population of indigenous Namibians still don’t own the land. A similar case applies to South Africa where 72 per cent of the land is owned by Whites.
As at independence, in 1990, Namibia had adopted the willing buyer-willing seller policy. The White minority which was less than 0.5 per cent owned nearly all the commercial land. The black population lived on communal land. With the government seeking to transfer 15 million hectares of farming land to Blacks by 2020, the process has been seen as a little slow. According to the Namibian Agriculture Union, only 27 per cent of the land was distributed in 2015. The land situation in South Africa is also precarious, and it influences the conversation in Namibia.
Black people make up 80 per cent of Namibia’s population, but the land is not equitably distributed. In recent times, the issue of land expropriation has crossed the South African borders and found root in Namibia. The quest for land reform has been premised on the national resettlement policy which deals with the redistribution of agricultural land to disadvantaged and landless Namibians. The country’s Ministry of Land is targeting to acquire 10 million hectares of land in the next two years.
Namibia was once a German colony from 1884 to 1915 and is still undergoing a slow process of decolonization. Unlike its neighbour South Africa that’s set on taking radical land reforms led by the voice of Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, Namibia’s President Hage Geingob has called for calm. He said, “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.”
As Namibians seek to address the issue of land, a national land conference is set to take place from the 1st to the 5th of October, 2018. The conference is set to address land policies and how the process of restitution and reclamation can be expedited.