|Lands Ministry denies corrupt practices|
|Written by Edson Haufiku|
|Wednesday, 11 July 2012 23:07|
The Ministry of Lands and Resettlement has denied accusations from landless inhabitants of the Kunene region, calling themselves the ‘Concerned Group’, who claim that the Ministry is unfairly distributing land earmarked for resettlement purposes to top Swapo cadres in the region.In a recent report by Informanté (27 June 2012) entitled ‘Land reserved for party favourites’, the Concerned Group accused the Ministry of Lands (MLR) of dishing out thousands of hectares to prominent individuals based on political affiliation, while many ordinary Namibians have unsuccessfully applied to be resettled on communal farms in the region since Independence.
MLR public relations officer, Chrispin Matongela, in a one-on-one interview denied the group’s claims, stating that the MLR was established to address past imbalances in land distribution. “The resettlement programme is a national programme that invites the whole citizenry in the previously disadvantaged group who want to promote economic development, as per the Agricultural Land Reform Act No 6 of 1995,” says Matongela.
A simple application to be resettled is not a guarantee that such an applicant would be resettled. The reason for this, Matongela says, is that his Ministry receives an overwhelming number of applications for land, compared to the limited land available for resettlement. Matongela says the national land policies, as well as the national resettlement policy, clearly indicate the priority groups to be resettled and the various criteria that a group or individuals have to meet to stand a chance of being resettled.
The criteria for resettlement, requires that a potential applicant be a Namibian citizen over the age of 21, have the ability to farm, with an agricultural background, must not have more than 150 large stock or 800 small stock and must not own any other communal land, other than for residential purposes.
To make the selection process transparent and fair, Matongela says a single uniform selection system was adopted and is being used countrywide by the Resettlement Sub-committees in all 13 regions, who recommend applicants to the Land Reform Advisory Commission, which in turn reviews the nominees before forwarding them to the Minister. “Members of the Land Reform Advisory Commission are not employees of the Lands Ministry, but experts and academics in the field of land-use and distribution. The process cannot be more transparent than that,” Matongela insisted.
Matongela also rejected the notion that land meant for resettlement in Namibia is being dished out according to party affiliation. Matongela used the example of former Namibian prisoners on Robben Island who collectively are the beneficiaries of a 386 hectare portion of Farm Ongombo, east of Windhoek, where the group engages in crop farming. “Not all members of that group are Swapo members,” Matongela pointed out.
The Ministry’s 2006 Action Plan for Land Reform initially set the target acquisition of freehold land for redistribution by the year 2020 at 15 million hectares, of which 5 million hectares were set aside for the National Resettlement Programme (NRP), while previously disadvantaged Namibians are meant to own the remaining 10 million hectares.
Since the implementation of that plan, the Ministry has acquired over 2 million hectares of commercial agricultural land under NRP, but failed to reach its annual acquisition target of 280 000 hectares, largely due to budgetary constraints and the failure of the willing-buyer, willing-seller land policy. 105 Namibians were resettled during the 2011/12 financial year, during which the Ministry purchased close to 59 000 hectares for resettlement.