We are outraged at the offer to purchase 17,000 more hectares of land in Dordabis by the audacious Russian billionaire, Rashid Sardarov, through his Comsar Properties SA Company.
Evidently, the Namibian ‘land store’ is open to the world’s shoppers, and the patriotic citizens of the country, who are desperate to own land, are once again the losers.
The liberation struggle, the 1904-08 genocide and the fight against colonialism were precisely about ownership of the land, and yet, for the love of money, rather than any shred of national pride or sensitivity to the desires of Namibians who lost land or have been unable to own land, we might be willing to sell our souls to anyone who has enough cash.
What have we become when something we value as precious as land is worth N$24 million?
Through full page ads and legal entreaties, the Namibian public is again informed about this new request by the Russian billionaire to be allowed to directly buy three farms of a combined 17,300 hectares that surround his existing 28,727 hectare game ranch.
The Russian and his company are offering to donate N$24 million to the land reform ministry to get a waiver so he can buy the land from the sellers without the land first being offered to Government. Is the recession that deep? Are we that hard-up for cash that we will easily sell our national treasures?
Our newspaper reported in 2014 about the original land purchase by Sardarov and his company in spite of the public backlash at the time. Back then, the Marula Game Ranch was to be established on Farm Coas No. 501, 70 km south-east of Windhoek.
In 2014, the then Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Alpheus !Naruseb, defended Sardarov’s purchase by saying that the land fell under private ownership and therefore it was not Government selling it. He also said that the Russian’s land did not constitute absentee landlordism, because the company had said that it would use the land for business purposes.
Namibians were applauding populist (and apparently hollow) statements from President Hage Geingob, supporting legislation to ban the sale of land in Namibia to foreigners. The Government said that the selling of land to foreigners has negative social and political impacts.
And yet, in spite of all of the populist hoopla about how foreigners shouldn’t be allowed to own Namibian land and the rise of the Landless People’s Movement and Affirmative Repositioning in the intervening years, here we are again in 2017.
The liberation struggle was not only for freedom from apartheid and colonialism, but also to recover the land which was taken by force by colonial powers.
Land issues in Namibia are sensitive at all times. The history of our people chased off their land by the Germans and then resettled onto barren, arid areas rankles deeply.
The descendants of the victims of the German genocide and land theft live without the land that is theirs, and yet a Russian with a pocket full of money buys our Namibian heritage to be enjoyed by his heirs, and this is apparently acceptable to the current Government.
To be sure, there are benefits accrued by increasing foreign direct investment, but there must be a balance to what is for sale. The Government, elected by the people, must be the vigilant gate keeper on our national pride and heritage.
We are reminded of the Middle Eastern mogul and his local business allies who still want to rape our coastline and fisheries with phosphate mining. We note that SOEs from China own mines locally and South Africans own huge tracks of land all over the country, like Erindi, and now there are increased Russian ‘investments’ in Namibian land.
But if a Namibian wanted to buy 50,000 hectares of farmland in Russia will this be allowed? Likely not. The Russian Revolution, which is being recognised around the world as a major historical turning point, occurred 100 years ago this week. The rebellion was largely driven by landless peasants and urban masses who owned nothing. And yet, huge swaths of prime farm land is forever gone from the inheritance of landless Namibian people and transferred to that of billionaire Russians.
To some extent, the Russian company really cannot be blamed for making a monetary offer for the soul of Namibia. Obviously, they believe that luring the Namibian Government with cash works. When people offer you bribes, it is because you present yourself as ‘bribe-able.’
The issue of integrity in our Government and amongst our business elites is ever a concern. Everyone is chasing cash; everyone wants a percentage of a ‘deal.’ What is sold in the process is somehow, not important.
Namibia must not continue to be a cheap ‘pick-up’ for any rich foreigner who drives by, rolls down his car window and makes an offer. Government must not sell Namibia for N$24 million or at any other price.