Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa yesterday tabled in parliament the Regional Councils Amendment Bill, which seeks to prohibit foreigners from owning land in settlement areas in Namibia.
The act of limiting land ownership by foreign nationals and juristic persons is an established practice internationally. “A foreign national may not acquire immovable property in a settlement area,” reads a part of the Bill tabled by Shaningwa in the National Assembly.
“An owner of immovable property within a settlement area who intends to alienate the property must alienate the property to a Namibian citizen,” it further reads.
The Bill also states that, “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any law, no agreement of alienation to a foreign national of immovable property situated in a settlement area entered into by the owner of the property is valid, if such immovable property is alienated contrary to this section.”
The ruling Swapo Party announced about three years ago that it would direct government to desist from selling land to foreigners at the expense of Namibians.
While motivating the Bill yesterday, Shaningwa said the law is being amended to ensure that land ownership is strictly controlled and good governance is applied, without blocking much-needed development.
She also tabled the Local Authorities Amendment Bill, which inter alia, seeks to place more sanctions on local authorities that contravene or fail to comply with the set provisions.
Shaningwa said there have been cases of local authority councillors who proved to be abusive and greedy. “We have witnessed corruption in the allocation of urban land. It is partly because of this experience that a cleanup is necessary,” she said.
She said there is a need for the minister to be given sufficient statutory powers to deal with the problem.
“Allow me to use this platform to pledge to the Namibian nation that the ministry and I will deal very harshly with corrupt local authority councilors. The Namibian people deserve better service from local authorities. I will show no mercy in this regard,” she warned.
Shaningwa said the new law will regulate certain low income areas in order to allow poorer citizens to own immovable property in such areas. The new law will also restrict the sale to foreign nationals of immovable property within local authority areas. “Access to urban areas will be aligned to the requirements of the Agricultural Commercial Land Reform Act in respect of foreign nationals,” she said.
Government has over the years spent millions to purchase farmland on which Namibians were resettled, but the inflated prices of farms have made the process cumbersome, as government does not always have the required resources.
It was widely reported last year that government planned to acquire 77 000 hectares (roughly 15 farms of 5 000 hectares each) during the 2013-14 financial year, 64 000 hectares during 2014-15 and 50 000 during the 2015-16 financial year.
In 2013 central government said it had spent over N$770 million to acquire 2,4 million hectares of farmland since Independence.
Lawmakers are expected to start debating the two Bills next week.