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NAMIBIA: Key step in land reform completedwindhoek, 1 October 2004 (IRIN) - The Namibian government has completed the valuation of commercial farmland in the country, a key element of its land reform programme.
Minister of lands, resettlement and rehabilitation, Hifikepunye Pohamba, handed over the first provisional valuation roll compiled by his ministry, listing some 12,509 farms and plots, to the presiding officer of the Valuation Court, which will sit next month for two weeks.
Copies of the list were made public last month at 18 different places countrywide. Farm owners could raise objections to the valuation of their land and inform officials of corrections regarding names and other details on the list.
"About 2,738 people inspected the roll and only 285 objections were raised, which will be heard at the Valuation Court," Pohamba said.
"After the court hearings, which last two weeks, the valuation roll will go to the ministry of finance for billing [the farmers] and eventual collection of the land tax", the minister added.
The new tax is meant, in part, to fund the state's acquisition of agricultural land for resettling thousands of "land-hungry" and previously disadvantaged Namibians.
"Collecting the tax will definitely happen during this financial year, which ends next February," Nashilonga Shivute, director of valuation and estates management in the lands ministry told IRIN. "Churches owning land will be exempted."
The land tax rates start at 0.75 percent of unimproved site value per hectare for a single farm, increasing by 0.25 percent for each additional Namibian-owned farm. The land tax for foreign landowners starts at 1.75 percent of the site value for the first farm and increases by 0.25 percent for each additional property.
Farmers were mostly satisfied with the way their farms were assessed, an official of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) told IRIN.
"The NAU, however, wanted the list of the farms available for a bit longer than three weeks for scrutiny. The period was too short in our view," said Sakkie Coetzee, chief executive officer of the NAU.
In support of land reform, the British government donated US $179,000 on Wednesday to assist the Permanent Technical Team (PTT) in the ministry of lands, which is busy drafting a strategic land redistribution plan that is expected to be finalised by November.
"My government has noted the Namibian government's clear and regular statements that land reform in Namibia will be carried out according to the country's laws, and in accordance with the terms of her constitution", said Alasdair MacDermott, British High Commissioner to Namibia. "My government is also aware of the urgency of moving forward on this issue", he added.
The funds were provided through the Department for International Development (DFID) and will be channelled via the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ), which mainly funds the work of the PTT.
Pohamba, the ruling party's presidential candidate in next month's elections, commended Britain's support.
"It comes at the right time, when the Namibian government faces an acute shortage of funds to implement the land reform programme," he said. "I call upon other development partners and stakeholders at large to emulate this excellent example demonstrated by the governments of Britain and Germany".
Namibia has a willing-buyer, willing-seller policy for acquiring land for redistribution, but earlier this year the government announced it would expropriate farms, as too few had been offered for purchase.
Since independence in 1990, the government has purchased 134 farms for US $105 million and resettled 37,100 individuals out of an estimated 243,000 "land-hungry" Namibians.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]