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Last Updated: Friday, 6 September, 2002, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Namibia's worried white farmers
By Alastair Leithead
BBC, Namibia

White farmers in Namibia are becoming increasingly nervous about land reform.

Namibian cattle ranch
Some 4,000 whites own much of Namibia's best land
Their concern grew after President Sam Nujoma said he supported the land seizures being carried out by Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

When I visited a cattle auction in Ojitwarongo some 250 kilometres from the capital, Windhoek, white farmers like Daniel Elas admitted they were disturbed by what they see happening around the continent.

"It makes us worried for sure. What's happening in Zimbabwe, I can't believe it! ... The more you say 'take the land from the whites and give it to the other people', then you are the hero of the people."

Parallels

Many farmers are worried by calls for more rapid land redistribution and threats from the ruling party which describes them as "arrogant white farmers".

Sam Nujoma
Sam Nujoma is a close ally of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe
The parallels between Presidents Mugabe and Nujoma are clear.

Like Zimbabwe, much of Namibia's best land is owned by a white minority and although a land reform programme on the basis of willing buyer willing seller is in place, there is little movement.

Cattle buyer Frikkie Brigdenhann says land reform is happening but must not be rushed.

"It must go in a responsible way. When its going too fast it is irresponsible," he said.

"People will get farms and they will not produce. We must produce and we must export."

Differences

However, despite their concerns few farmers believe the situation could deteriorate as far as it has in Zimbabwe.

Namibian desert
Most of Namibia's land is not suitable for agriculture

Namibia is a huge country with a small population.

And their cattle farms are much poorer quality land with huge areas needed to make commercial farming viable.

Namibia's main opposition party says Mr Nujoma is trying to divert attention from the real issues on the ground - poverty and unemployment and fears that things could go the way of Zimbabwe.

Not far from Windhoek is Richard Luehl's farm and he admits to nerves.

"There is enough land, as the president said, and I don't think the country is going the way Zimbabwe did," he said.

But he warned that if things go the way of Zimbabwe, then South Africa would be next.

Mr Nujoma's alignment with Mr Mugabe is a cause for concern among white farmers, but few think Namibia will descend into the chaos that is Zimbabwe.

But then again that is what white farmers in Zimbabwe thought only three years ago.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC's Alastair Leithead
"White farmers are worried here"



SEE ALSO:
Surprise reshuffle in Namibia
27 Aug 02  |  Africa
Namibia's burning land issue
04 Aug 00  |  Africa
Namibia's Nujoma sworn in
21 Mar 00  |  Africa


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