Africabeat template: Africabeat: Namibia the next Zimbabwe?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Namibia the next Zimbabwe?

It looks like is embarking on a fast-track program that will take away a vast quantity of land from its white owners (4.8 million hectacres) and redistribute it to a relatively small share of the population (240,o00 farmers) on a "willing seller, willing buyer basis."

Sound familiar? This was exactly the kind of language used to describe the land reform program in when it was first conceived. I know very little about this plan and nothing about the Namibian government's actual intentions, but fast track land reform is often about responding to political pressure (in this case sparked by a highly-publicized dispute between a white farm owning family and some of their workers) rather than creating real change.

The costs are often quite high. In Zimbabwe, land reform ended up being too shallow to have any real effects in terms of increasing the economic opportunities of ordinary Zimbabweans while just radical enough to destroy what was the country's business class. Land seizures resulted in massive food shortages as poor Zimbabweans had neither the technical capacity nor the capital to farm the land they had just been given.

If Namibia is avoid following in Zimbabwe's footsteps, it must make sure the redistribution process is free from corruption and that land falls in the hands of those who need it, not just those who have wealth or political connections. New landowners, most of whom have never managed a farm and have no capital to properly cultivate the land, must receive massive amounts of support from the government including training and agricultural inputs such as livestock, machinery, seeds, and fertilizer. Finally, whites who have had land confiscated should be allowed to keep some portion of their land or should otherwise be encouraged to stay in the country. If whites leave Namibia, millions of dollars in foreign capital will likely go with them.

Land reform is a necessary step in redressing southern Africa's colonial legacy of economic segregation. However, attempts to redistribute land often seem to end in disaster. A transparent process and energetic government support are necessary in order to balance the needs of equity and economic stability. But that requires a strong and effective government, something which in most African countries is in short supply.

Related news articles:

"Britain to provide funds for Namibia's land reform" Namibia Economist

"First compulsory Namibian farm sale conclused" Mail and Guardian

"Namibians prepare for emotive land reform" BBC News

"Land pressure mounting in Namibia" BBC News

"Land reform must include post-transfer support says new report." IRIN (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

Related blog entries:

"Mugabe admits he's an idiot" Captain Marlowe
"Political factors" The Head Heeb


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Anonymous Jackal said...

This saddens me. I can't help but wonder why people are not sitting up and noticing the ( in my opinion criminal fiasco ) of what has occurred in/to Zimbabwe as a result of the so-called Land Reforms.
If anything, being born in Zimbabwe myself, I am hoping that the demise of such a wonderful country will not go unnoticed by others and that a lesson will be learned through all of this.

9:29 AM  

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