OK, it’s only Namibia.

A Namibian case has just caught my attention. Three German nationals are opposing an order that their farms be expropriated to resettle landless black peasants. Read the full story here.

The German nationals claim that the expropriation order contravenes a treaty signed between Germany and Namibia in 1997 that protects German nationals investments in Namibia.

The State alleges that the Germans are “Absentee Landlords”, and only visit their farms two or three times a year.

Is this a a crime? Yes, you may say, if it deprives landless locals of a place to live. What rubbish. International investors couldn’t give a rats arse about being absentee landlords. Thousands of people worldwide own numerous properties all over the world, and if they choose not to physically live on a property, so what?

Could you imagine the outcry if a wealthy American, owning a holiday house in Plett suddenly found himself with an expropriation order? Could you just imagine moving landless blacks into a sprawling mansion on Millionaires Row? This scenario is not a far cry from a farm. He, and many other wealthy property owners all over South Africa, probably only see their holiday houses once a year.

holiday_home.jpg

Expropriating legally owned property is just the first step on the slippery slide to wholesale land invasions ala Mad Bob Mugabe <spit> <spit>.

We wring our hands in despair at the lack of direct foreign investment on the Sub-Continent. Are we surprised? If you take a man’s farm, what is to stop you taking his factory or shop that he has invested in? We either protect property rights in terms of our Constitution or we don’t. I really don’t believe there is any middle ground here. Protecting property rights will give investors confidence, and foreign currency in the form of long-term direct investment will flow into the country. Any sniff of uncertainty as to property rights will just make the investor look elsewhere. There are plenty of other great countries to invest in.

Yes, I know that expropriation is an accepted procedure worldwide, and I am sure that is used in extreme cases of National interest, but here in Africa, the definition of National interest, could just mean that the current President-for-life would just like to buy a few more votes by doling out someone else’s property.

And while we’re at it, let’s just define the term “landless”. I assume that these “landless” peasants don’t own any land that they can call their own. Shame, join the 60% or more of the World’s population who are also landless. There will always be the rich and the poor, there will always be the landowners and the landless. It has always been this way and it always will be. No amount of Social Engineering is going to change this simple fact.

I wish these Germans the best of luck in their court case, and if you are one of these “Absentee Landlords”, I strongly recommend that you go to your holiday home this weekend and remember to sign the register, you may just need it some time in the future.

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5 Responses

  1. Well what about the people the German government expropriated the farms from earlier?

    How well did the German government respect property rights?

  2. Hi Steve,

    Point taken, but the issue here is about property rights in terms of a Constitution. Most of the land in the world was acquired by conquest, annexation or colonisation, but that was then and this is now. If Namibia has an issue with Germany, let them take it up at diplomatic level.

    Also, I’m not sure how many “people” were there when the Germans arrived.

  3. A relation of my wife inherited some property just before the German take over, or rather it was given to her by the Herero chief Samuel Maharero. The German government gave it to the South West Africaq Company. Unlike most of the disposessed people, she took them to court and won, even though the odds in a German colonial court were stacked against her.

    When South Africa took over the ciountry after WW I, the SWA Company reopened the case, on different grounds: that it was undesirable for a non-white to own property.

    She won again, but then lost it when she stood surety for her no-good son-in-law.

    But I suppose in your view the SWA Company was right — non-whites are not “people”.

  4. Steve

    Playing the race card in this case is stupid, shortsighted and brainless. One day you may be wealthy enough to own property. I doubt it but shit happens and then you will argue against appropriation.

    If those farms were owned by wealthy people, say like Denzel Washington or Samuel Jackson, would you feel the same way?

    I submit that people today in most cases did not do the taking away, in many cases they bought the places from people who owned before them who may have bought or inherited. Some may even still be on land owned by the family for a century or more.

    Should we punish people for the deeds of our predecessors in history. Maybe then we should go back far enough and reinstate the lands that the animals lived on to the animals.

    Land ownership is something that is precious. It is enshrined in the constititution. When I buy my farm you may take it from me over my dead body.

  5. Wow, steady there. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I find pleasing about your story is that the truth prevailed ie. she won both her court cases , and her “property rights” were protected. Her pigmentation is peripheral to this line of argument. That she eventually lost it when she stood surety for her son-in-law is sad after all the hardship she had gone through in order to hang on to it, but once again, the law prevailed. If she had lost it in the second court case, or by plain confiscation, she would have strong grounds for land restitution, a measure I support for genuine claims.

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