Namibia will hold countrywide land expropriation talks as the nation grapples with political and ethnic tensions over the transfer of wealth to its majority black population.
President Hage Gottfried Geingob, speaking at a Heroes’ Day commemoration event in Nkurenkuru, Kavango-West, about 700 kms (440 miles) from the capital Windhoek, said the Second National Land Conference would begin in October.
He said the conference would address the willing-seller, willing-buyer principle, ancestral land claims for restitution, expropriation in public interest with just compensation, urban land reform and resettlement criteria.
Namibia’s neighbour and regional economic powerhouse South Africa is also in the process of amending land ownership laws, causing investor jitters locally and abroad, leading to a controversial tweet by United States President Donald Trump this week criticising the move by South Africa.
Namibia wants to transfer 43 percent, or 15 million hectares of its arable agricultural land, to previously disadvantaged blacks by 2020. By the end of 2015, 27 percent was redistributed, according to the Namibia Agriculture Union.
Critics say the current land resettlement program has failed to adequately address the land question in Namibia whose ownership is currently skewed in favour of a tiny white minority.
“Government is opening up these difficult policy conversations because no one should be under the illusion that our fight for freedom is complete,” Geingob said.
In tweets about the event, Geingob wrote: “In my Heroes Day speech today in Nkurenkuru, Kavango-West, I said that we have achieved Unity and Liberty, two of three key principles inscribed in our Coat of Arms and embodied in our Constitution. The third and last principle, JUSTICE is the second phase of our struggle.
“I have committed Government to pursue all possible means to deal with income disparities, high unemployment and pockets of extreme poverty. We can only truly honour our heroes and heroines if we commit the wealth of the country they bled and died for in their children’s hands”.
Geingob has previously said the government should evoke part of the Constitution allowing for land expropriation with fair compensation since the redistribution process has been slow.
In April Namibia scrapped a clause in its economic empowerment framework that would have forced white businesses to sell a 25 percent stake to previously disadvantaged blacks, saying the state did not have enough resources to invest in empowerment transactions.