Namibians divided on land reform . . . expropriation still a hot potato

01 November 2019 Author   Jeremiah Ndjoze

Namibians are divided on land reform, including expropriation, a recently released Afrobarometer report has indicated. 

The Afrobarometer team in Namibia, led by Survey Warehouse, interviewed 1,200 adult Namibians in August 2019 and a sample of this size, according to the survey proponents, yields country-level results with a margin of error of approximately 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.  
The survey established that only about half of Namibians rate the government’s land resettlement programme as effective, and more than four in 10 say land should be expropriated without compensation and given to the landless.  By a narrow margin, expropriation beats out the current willing-buyer, willing-seller policy among citizens’ preferences, survey suggested. 
“Land reform remains among the top 10 problems that Namibians want the government to address, but the country’s crippling drought, water supply, and other issues have superseded land on their list of priorities,” Survey Warehouse’s Christie Keulder revealed on Wednesday.
He maintained that slightly more than half (52 percent) of Namibians say the government’s land resettlement programme is ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ effective in redistributing land to those who need it most, while 37 percent rate the programme as ‘not at all effective or ‘not very effective.’
It has emerged that a stronger majority (58 percent), according to the survey’s outcome, see the government’s provision of serviced land and housing in urban areas as effective. 
Asked about their preferences for land reform, according to the survey, a plurality (41 percent) of Namibians replied that government should expropriate land without any compensation and give it to those without land. 
“Slightly fewer (36 percent) believe the current policy of willing-buyer, willing-seller is adequate and should be continued, while 16 percent say that no further land reform is necessary and the current policy should be discontinued,” Keulder stated. 
Expropriation in focus 
The outcome of the Afrobarometer survey is corroborated by that of a recent paper on Land Governance, which was compiled by Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) lecturer, Prof Mutjinde Katjiua, and a team of other Land Management academics, at the same school.
The authors of the paper, which was unveiled in September this year at a Land Governance symposium, indicates that an aspect of good land governance is that expropriation procedures should be justified, time efficient, transparent and fair. The group suggest that, in order to be fair and transparent, the expropriation process should be built on consultations and mechanisms for appeal, as well as, be based on agreement and have fair compensation as an outcome. 
“It however appears [that] expropriation in Namibia may provide for consultations and fair compensation, but the practical reality is that these requirements are not always complied with,” the authors maintained.
The NUST team has it that the application of the rules of the resettlement process, which one can deem as the outcome of the expropriation process in terms of the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act, comes short of being transparent. The expropriation process, for purposes of resettlement, has further been described as not fulfilling its public interest purpose, namely, to ensure access of land to Namibians who cannot otherwise afford it.
Katjiua and his team further established that, while land reform has largely concentrated on freehold (commercial) agricultural and communal land, urban land has recently entered the land reform debates. Key challenges herein, according to the NUST team, pertains to the availability of serviced land, the inability of urban dwellers to access affordable land and therefore housing, increased speculation in land and insecure tenure of urban informal settlers. 
“These challenges warrant redress if Namibia is to achieve a well-functioning land sector for the desired goals of economic development, security of tenure and comprehensive social development,” stated Katjiua and his group maintained.
Competing problems  
The Afrobarometer survey has established that drought, water supply, and other issues have superseded land, among Namibians’ most important problems for the government to address.  About one in eight respondents (13 percent) cite land among their three priorities, dropping land from being the 3rd problematic area in 2017 to the 9th in 2019. 
Afrobarometer heads a pan-African, nonpartisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues across Africa. Seven rounds of surveys were completed in up to 38 countries between 1999 and 2018. Round 8 surveys are planned in at least 35 countries in 2019/2020. The research entity conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples. Previous surveys were conducted in Namibia in 1999, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, and 2017.


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