RR RUEHDT RUEHDU RUEHLMC RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHPB RUEHRN
DE RUEHWD #0254/01 2311623
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 181623Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0025
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUCNMCM/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP COLLECTIVE C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WINDHOEK 000254
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/14/2018
SUBJECT: NAMIBIAN MINISTER OF LANDS: EXPROPRIATION SHOULD
BE LAST RESORT
Classified By: Ambassador Dennise Mathieu for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).
1. (C) Minister of Lands and Resettlement Alpheus Naruseb told the
Ambassador on August 13 that expropriation of land (eminent domain)
should be a last resort, and that he intends to allocate land without
antagonizing key stakeholders and nsure it remains productive. He
lamented that a majority of resettled farms are idle, and said
government should provide them more support, ideally with the assistanc
of the international community. He praised white farmers for
their outreach to emerging commercial and resettled farmers and said
the Zimbabwe contagion was unlikely to spread to Namibia because land
here is plentiful. The Ambassador noted reports of Chinese companies
ignoring local labor laws and said it was especially important that
labor and procurement laws be perceived as fair and transparent as we
move to implementation of the Millennium Challenge Compact. End
2. (C) The Ambassador called on recently-appointed Minister for Lands
and Resettlement Alpheus Naruseb on August 13 to learn about his
3. (C) After warmly welcoming the Ambassador, Naruseb said he is
still "finding my way" with the new portfolio (Note: Naruseb served
as Minister of Labor until his appointment in April to his current
post.). Naruseb reported that he is reviewing the Ministry's
policies and has not decided yet how to proceed. His goal, though,
is to find the right balance, within a legal framework, and he
expressed confidence that he would be able to build good
relationships with all key stakeholders.
Expropriation: a last resort
4. (C) The Ambassador asked whether farm workers would be given
preference in settlements on expropriated farms, noting they have
more relevant skills than other potential recipients. The Minister
replied that he had been in his position since April and had not yet
expropriated any farms. He declared that "it would make my day if
we could get where we need to go without antagonizing one another."
Expropriations (eminent domain), he asserted, should be a last
resort, not a routine action.
Keeping farmland productive
5. (C) With the astronomical rise in global food prices, Naruseb
continued, we can't take lightly the need to keep farmland productive.
It would be counterproductive, he said, to settle people on farms as
merely a refuge. He lamented that "idling" on resettled farms is
prevalent, perhaps on 55-60 percent of all resettled farms. He
wondered whether his Ministry has provided sufficient support to
resettled farmers. It makes little sense, he said, merely to dump
resettled farmers on land, as they cannot be expected to maintain the
same level of productivity.
Affirmative action successes: lessons to be learned?
6. (C) The Ambassador expressed her understanding that the GRN's
affirmative action program had been much more successful than the
resettlement efforts. Were there possible lessons to be drawn from
that experience? The affirmative action program covers so many
different areas, Naruseb replied, and elements of it have been
incorporated in the resettlement program. For instance, many new
farmers -- as "formerly disadvantaged people" -- qualify for
preferential bank loans, and affirmative action programs have made
a big difference in empowering women. The question of empowering
people on the land is key -- just because someone is allocated 3,000
hectares of land doesn't necessarily mean that he knows how to fix a
windmill or maintain the equipment. "We have a serious skills deficit
in this country," the Minister lamented.
7. (C) Asked whether MCC might provide assistance to his Ministry, the
Ambassador reported that the MCC program will help farmers on communal
lands increase their livestock productivity and help enhance the
production of indigenous natural products. In addition, she noted that
an American citizen, one of Namibia's honorary consuls, had initiated a
scholarship program for Namibian students to study land surveying and
management. Any assistance is welcome, the Minister replied. He noted
that the GRN has also received assistance from the EU, particularly in
the organization of farm worker unions and communal farmer unions, and
training in the management of farms. The latter was especially useful
for "emerging farmers" with little technical expertise.
White farmers forward-leaning
WINDHOEK 00000254 002 OF 002
8. (C) Naruseb praised white farmers for their significant outreach
to emerging commercial and resettled farmers, for teaching them how to
become more effective farmers. That engagement by white farmers "makes
my job easier," Naruseb said, and he vowed to take maximum advantage of
it. "I cannot afford to have us at loggerheads with one another," he
added, saying that would mean "I'm failing at my assignment." Asked
whether there was a danger of the Zimbabwean contagion spreading to
Namibia, Naruseb denied that was a possibility. "If it's one thing we
have plenty of, " he said, "it's wide-open spaces and land. There is
no need to fight one another," he stressed.
Internal SWAPO machinations
9. (C) The Ambassador asked how the Minister had escaped mention in
recent press accounts of internal divisions within SWAPO. After a long
reflective pause, Naruseb ventured that perhaps it was due to his
approach of seeking common ground. "Maybe the opposition and those who
write newspapers appreciate that." Some highly amibitious people, he
continued, scheme to get the best positions and it usually comes back t
bite them. "If people see you doing what you're supposed to be doing,
they leave you alone."
Chinese companies and local labor laws
10. (C) The Ambassador remarked on a recent press report that that the
Ministry of Labor had stopped work at a Chinese construction firm due t
poor safety conditions and low salaries paid to Namibian employees. Sh
had seen other reports of Chinese companies failing to comply with
Namibian labor laws, and she solicited Naruseb's thoughts, in his hat a
the former Minister of Labor. Clear-cut violations of law are taken up
by the law enforcement process, he said. Wondering about the tenderin
process, he acknowledged that "maybe it is time to take a look" at
accusations against Chinese entrepreneurs and to "give some direction."
Fair and transparent public tender and procurement processes would be
key under the MCC program, the Ambassador pointed out. "I get the
point," Naruseb replied cordially.
11. (C) Naruseb clearly said all the right things about proceeding
cautiously and within the law, and about ensuring that farmland remains
productive. He seemed a bit daunted by his new responsibilities,
however. Given the emotional resonance of this issue for many Namibian
and SWAPO party politics, he will not have an easy task. Nonetheless,
he appeared determined to move forward in a serious, transparent way.
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