Hage Geingob said his government would take steps like South Africa to redistribute land to dispossessed Namibians. But politicians and NGOs have criticized his approach, saying that the wrong people are involved.
Namibian President Hage Geingob on Monday said he will push forward with expropriating land and redistributing it to the majority black population in the country.
"Many Namibians were driven off their productive land," said Geingob during his opening speech at a national land policy conference in the capital Windhoek. During his speech, he pointed to similar proposals made by South Africa's government.
"We also share a burning land issue and a racialized distribution of land resources with South Africa," Geingob said. "This comes from a common history of colonial dispossession. What we also agree to is that the status quo will not be allowed to continue."
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The Namibian government is hoping to transfer nearly half of its arable agricultural land, about 15 million hectares (58,000 square miles), to disadvantaged blacks in the country.
Geingob said the government would look at constitutional provisions "which allow for the expropriation of land with just compensation, as opposed to fair compensation, and look at foreign ownership of land, especially absentee land owners."
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Two former presidents at the conference, Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba, said the government should only pay "for things like equipment on the farm and not the land," said AFP news agency correspondent Shinovene Consagrado.
Under current practice, the government upholds the principle of "willing buyer, willing seller," which means an owner must first offer the government an option to buy the farmland. The government can then buy the land and redistribute it.
Political parties and NGOs have criticized the government's attempt to change land reform measures. Utaara Mootu, spokesperson for the Landless People's Movement told The Namibian newspaper that descendants of those dispossessed weren't invited to the conference, which aimed to establish a common policy on land reform.
"People who lost land are the descendants, but were not invited," Mootu said. "Why would you invite the electoral commission of Namibia or the health ministry to speak on land issues?"
Thousands of black Namibians were driven off during Germany's colonization of Namibia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of them were either killed or forced to resettle in barren areas.
Namibian President Hage Geingob has been criticized by politicians and NGOs for his approach to land reform
ls/msh (Reuters, AFP)