The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Reform, Peter Amutenya takes the oath before the start of the hearing
Story by George Sanzila
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts held a public hearing on the land reform and resettlement programme of the Ministry of Land Reform on 27 October 2016.
The Standing Committee has the mandate to scrutinize any detected irregularities related to government sponsored activities, report on its findings and make further recommendations to Parliament for consideration and debate. The public hearing emanates from a performance audit report of the Auditor General for the financial year 2010/2011 to 2012/2013.
In that audit report, it was found that the Land Resettlement Process has been very slow due to an inadequate number of farms offered to government for resettlement purposes and further compounded by exorbitant prices. Other impediments include the non-productivity of farms and lack of infrastructure particularly water infrastructure.
It was also discovered that many resettled farmers do not have lease agreements or allotment letters making it impossible for them to access loan facilities from the Agricultural Bank of Namibia. Only 264 out of 5000 beneficiaries of the resettlement programme have lease agreements according to the Permament Secretary of the Ministry of Land Reform, Peter Amutenya who answered questions on behalf of the Ministry.
According to Amutenya, because of the “willing buyer willing seller concept”, the Ministry does not have control over the speed at which it would have liked the resettlement programme to go as sellers determine when to sell land. This is often exacerbated by procedures involved in resettlement such as such as acquisition, demarcation, advertising, selection by resettlement committees and finally allocation. This undertaking under normal circumstances would normally take 90 days to complete.
He further added that as part of capacity building and support for resettled farmers, the Ministry has devised a support programme with stakeholders to assist farmers attain agricultural knowledge. Stakeholders include, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Agribank and expert private farmers. Amutenya stated that although the Ministry of Land Reform has tried to rehabilitate dilapidated infrastructure through tender at acquired farms, in many of those areas water scarcity poses a challenge, which has rendered them unoccupied for longer periods of time.
He noted that in spite of the slow pace at which to address the backlog associated with lease agreements due to lack of land surveyors, the Ministry is trying to address this issue by also engaging private land surveyors.
The Auditor General in the report recommends that stakeholders find mechanisms to speed up the acquisition and allocation of land and rigorously support resettled farmers to become productive by ensuring that infrastructure at farms are well maintained before resettlement and lease agreements issued.