Is Namibia heading towards a Zimbabwe land grab scenario?


Namibia could be in for torrid times as the country’s radical grouping Affirmative Repositioning (AR) escalates its efforts to expropriate productive land currently in the hands of white commercial farmers.

Affirmative Repositioning is a radical movement in Namibia ‘aimed’ at improving the socio-economic conditions of urban youth. The organisation has called for mass expropriation on the 31st of July, 2015.

This could be another Zimbabwe unfolding that could push yet another sub-regional country into a precipice.


(READ MOREZim’s Mugabe backtracks on land reform)

However, unlike Zimbabwe, Agriculture in Namibia contributes around five per cent of the national GDP though 25 per cent to 40 per cent of Namibians depend on subsistence agriculture and herding. 

The biggest impact will not be on the structure of the economy but on the image of the country especially with regards to private property. This will likely impact foreign direct investment (FDI).

Namibia’s economic freedom score is 59.6, making its economy the 93rd freest of 178 countries in the 2015 index. Over the past five years, Namibia’s economic freedom has been on a downward trend, declining by 3.1 points; the third biggest score drop in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. 

According to the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, Property rights are not protected effectively which could be worsened by the nearing land invasions.

The country’s National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), has urged the nation not to illegally occupy land on July 31, as planned by the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement.

The NUNW’s Job Muniaro said the planned mass occupation of land holds the potential to disrupt peace and stability in the country.

“President Geingob was elected by more than 86 per cent of men and women of this country, therefore we must give him a fair chance to solve the problem,” Muniaro was reported in some media to have said.

Purvance Heuer, head of securities, Simonis Storm Securities said land in Namibia was linked to wealth creation so this in part was informing the proposed land grabs. He told CNBC Africa that the situation was being worsened by the widening general coefficient between the rich and poor.

“The general coefficient between the rich and the poor in Namibia has been widening over the years so the question now is how to spread the prosperity wide enough so that the wider people are affected positively,” said Heuer.

He also said the new president was pro-business and has been well received by the private sector and this builds well for foreign direct investments.

“The government has reiterated the need to respect property rights and if they can start to put actions on what they have been saying this will move the country in the positive direction.”

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The land invasions have been simmering for over a decade now. The fears were initially fuelled by comments by the former President Sam Nujoma at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2001.

Nujoma’s comments sent tremors to the farming community as he took aim at then British Premier Tony Blair for attacking Zimbabwe’s President for instituting the chaotic land reform exercise.

“Of course we are fearful about what was said in Johannesburg, we would be fools not to be,” a Gunter Stahl, farmer in Namibia was quoted at the time as saying.