Namibian president Hage Geingob has demanded constitutional amendments to allow for the forceful expropriation of white-owned commercial farms. White Namibians, who are descended from former colonisers Germany and South Africa and make up six percent of the population, own 70 percent of the land.
Namibia adopted a “willing-buyer, willing-seller” approach to land reform after independence from South Africa in 1990. Farmers wishing to sell their business must first offer it to the state, which parcels it into smaller plots and redistributes to “previously disadvantaged Namibians”.
That strategy has done little to redress the imbalance, however, prompting president Hage Geingob to call for a more muscular approach. “The willing-buyer, willing-seller principle has not delivered results,” Geingob told a land conference last year, adding that the “status-quo should not be allowed to continue”.
Geingob has since demanded constitutional amendments to allow for the forceful expropriation of white-owned commercial farms with “fair compensation”. His proposal echoed controversial plans in neighbouring South Africa to expropriate land without compensation. It also brought back memories of land seizures in Zimbabwe in 2003, when thousands of white farmers were chased off their properties.
'Not like Zimbabwe'
Namibia’s commercial farmers union estimates that about eight million hectares of land have been offered to the government since independence. Only three million were purchased. “The white community is selling their land,” said Bernardus Swartbooi, a former deputy land minister who registered his own party after a spat with government last year. “It’s not as if they are keeping their land as was the case in Zimbabwe.”