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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Land pressure mounting in Namibia
Namibian child
Poverty reduction and land reform are priorities
Namibia's new prime minister says he will put greater pressure on white farmers to sell their land.

Theo-Ben Gurirab said that land reform was a major priority for the government, together with poverty eradication.

In an interview with the BBC's Network Africa, he said he was disappointed that white farmers were not as "forthcoming as we'd like them to be" when it came to selling land for resettlement.


Germany owes us reparations, or otherwise the only road left for us as Africans will be the Zimbabwe way.

Paramount Chief Riruako of the Herero

The Paramount Chief of the Herero people of Namibia warned on Sunday that if his people were not paid reparations for crimes committed against them during the colonial era they would forcefully repossess farms, according to the Namibian news agency.

About 4,000, mostly white commercial farmers own just under half the arable land in Namibia.

Namibia's government is committed to the principle of "willing-buyer willing-seller" - which means no-one is forced to sell up, but if they do the state gets first refusal.

So far Namibia has avoided the violent scenes witnessed in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

The BBC's Southern Africa correspondent Alastair Leithead says that the land reform programme in Zimbabwe has raised the expectations of landless black farmers across southern Africa and generated fear of repossession among white farmers.

People died for land

The new prime minister, appointed in a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday and sworn in on Wednesday, told the BBC that Namibia's land reform programme had been successful since its launch in June 1991.

Over 20 million Namibian dollars were being spent every year to buy farms for redistribution, he said.

Theo-Ben Gurirab
The new prime minister says land reforms is a priority

But white farmers while not resisting the land reform policy were not offering enough land for sale, according to Mr Gurirab.

Land reform was a priority and Namibians who risked their lives during the fight for independence did so "for freedom and land", the prime minister said.

His comments followed those of Namibia's President, Sam Nujoma, at the congress of the ruling South-West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) at the weekend that "arrogant" white farmers must embrace the government's land reform programme.

He told party members that 192 farms that were not being utilised or were owned by "foreign absentee landlords" would be earmarked for repossession.

Compensation would be paid for those farms which were taken for redistribution, the president said.

Mr Gurirab's predecessor as Prime Minister, Hage Geingob, said on Tuesday that he was resigning from the government.

He declined the post of Regional and Local Government Minister, offered to him by President Nujoma following his removal as Prime Minister in the cabinet reshuffle, Namibian television reported.

Mass extermination

Land reform and the issue of reparations for suffering during the colonial period are major issues for the Herero people of Namibia.

They make up about seven per cent of Namibia's 1.8 million inhabitants.

Namibian farm
Nearly half the farming land is owned by whites
During German colonial rule, which ended with Germany's defeat at the end of the First World War in 1918, the Herero were nearly wiped out by German colonial forces.

Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako of the Herero is leading the community's legal attempts to be paid reparations for the extermination campaign by the German government and German companies which operated in Namibia.

"We have been wronged. A decree was issued regarding our extermination and our properties were expropriated. In order to bring about equilibrium, bring reparations now," Chief Riruako demanded.

"Germany owes us reparations, or otherwise the only road left for us as Africans will be the Zimbabwe way."

Whites make up six per cent of the Namibian population and about one third of them are descended from German settlers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Caroline Burhmann, Namibia Land Reform Advisory Comm
"The message to the farmers here is to work with the government"
Theo-Ben Gurirab on Network Africa
"Many people are still landless, more than 200,000."
See also:

27 Aug 02 | Africa
09 Feb 01 | Africa
04 Aug 00 | Africa
02 Oct 00 | Africa
21 Mar 00 | Africa
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