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.
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.