A Namibian farmer, who claims he has been applying for resettlement in the southern African country for 15 years without success, has reportedly threatened to sue the government for leasing four farms to a Russian billionaire.
Reports last week indicated that the Namibian government recently agreed to lease four farms valued at N$43 million and measuring a combined 17 000 hectares to a Russian billionaire, Rashid Sardarov, for 99 years.
According to The Namibian, the aggrieved farmer, Asser Katjinaani, who owned at least 300 livestock, said the government’s deal with the Russian billionaire was “in violation of various provisions of several laws of Namibia”.
“Our further instructions are to make an application to the High Court of Namibia to set aside the lease agreement as violating various provisions of several laws of Namibia,” Katjinaani’s lawyer, Norman Tjombe was quoted as saying.
The four farms were paid for by the Russian and registered as state property by the land reform ministry.
Sardarov’s company Comsar Properties SA will be paying rent annually to the government, which would be equivalent to the land tax paid by commercial farmers, the report said.
Last week opposition parties and civil society organisations described government’s decision as “modern-day land grab”, a New Era report said.
“This is what in modern-day is called the new scramble for Africa, which is how it played out in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.
“This is the modern-day land grab – they come under conservation, under investment. In Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya never will you see locals being shareholders. Modern-day scramble for Africa, Namibia has entered the race,” Landless People’s Movement’s (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi was quoted as saying.
The country’s land reform minister Utoni Nujoma, however, defended the move, saying that it was necessitated by “considerable economic benefits that will accrue to Namibia”.
In August President Hage Geingob reportedly warned politicians in his country to guard against using the land issue for political gains.
“I believe that we should have difficult conversations, as Namibians, with the aim of finding peaceful and sustainable solutions to the challenges of inequality, landlessness and outstanding pains of genocide,” AFP quoted Geingob as saying.
“If we don’t correct the wrongs of the past through appropriate policies and actions, our peace will not be sustainable,” the president warned.