Thursday, March 04, 2004

Namibia Goes Down the Zimbabwe Route

I'm acutely aware that grave historical injustices have been done in Namibia, but for all that, I still think that the Nujoma government's planned land grab is a disaster in the making. One has to be foolish indeed to have so close at hand an example like Zimbabwe of what not to do, and yet still insist on repeating Mugabe's mistakes.

GOVERNMENT yesterday announced for the first time that all Namibian landholders, regardless of skin colour, could be subject to expropriation under a policy change announced last week.
Lands Minister Hifikepunye Pohamba told a media briefing in Windhoek that no one - black or white, Namibian or foreigner - would be spared as the State prepared to expropriate any farm it identified as suitable for the resettlement of the needy.
"We go for absentee landlords but that does not prevent us from taking land from others. We are not going to be confined to absentee landlords. It can be from Namibians, whether they are black or white, or farms are productive or not," Pohamba said.
For the first time Government admitted that even productive farms were up for grabs, as long as those in power felt that "it can be used better".
At the same time, he indicated that white landowners who had wronged others in the past would be affected by the new measures.
Some Namibians owned up to five farms or huge chunks of land, which, he said, was not a healthy situation.
Pohamba was supported by his Permanent Secretary, Frans Tsheehama, who said they were aware that some Namibians had up to 7 000 hectares of land but only one cow on it.
It emerged that no real criteria existed to determine farms to be targeted.
"If we identify an area as good for resettlement we will expropriate it. We can't resettle people in the desert.
People argue that land was made available but that land was not good for resettlement because it was in the rocky and in desert areas," Pohamba said.
Tsheehama said Government needed around nine million hectares and over N$1 billion to buy it.
According to Pohamba, most white-owned farms in Namibia were not productive and even if the farms were productive they could be expropriated "to be more productive".

And how exactly would breaking these farms up into small plots manned by peasants do anything to boost productivity? A policy proposal better designed to destroy investor confidence in the economy and encourage white flight could hardly be imagined. This is madness, pure and simple - if one's primary interest were truly in the welfare of the poor rather than in vengeance and distributing goodies to political allies, the correct policy to follow would not be land redistribution but a land tax, which would encourage those merely sitting on idle land to sell it, while leaving highly productive farms relatively undisturbed. To be honest, I don't even believe this has anything to do with retribution as such, or there wouldn't be talk of targetting farmers "whether they be black or white". All the Namibian government is doing is attempting to steal coveted properties in the exact same manner as Mugabe and his cronies. What a bunch of greedy, incompetent fools!