Land Tenure and Land Reform in Namibia.

  • S.K. Amoo Faculty of Law University of Namibia Windhoek


Access to and tenure of land were among the most important concerns of the Namibian people in their struggle for independence. The land problem in Namibia is a direct result of the land policy of the apartheid colonial system that created imbalances in property relations in the territory. The colonial policy of property relations, including land tenure and access to land, were based on racial lines and were implemented by legislation. The German occupation of the territory was followed by the declaration of the territory as a Protectorate and a Crown Colony and in terms of property rights and property relations, a series of legislation was promulgated by the South African colonial Administration to classify the land into state land, private land, and communal land and to introduce new concepts of land tenure. This classification was based on the native-settler dichotomy and one of the objectives of this classification was to make access to private land and tenure thereof the exclusive right of the white settlers. Ownership of private property was secured by the right of freehold. The communal lands were the creation of legislation, which, inter alia, deprived the indigenous people, who were the occupiers of the communal lands, of their allodial rights to their ancestral land. The individual rights over the communal land were the rights of usufruct, which have limited security of tenure. On the eve of Namibia's independence thereof, most of the lands held under freehold titles were owned by the whites and the majority of the indigenous people with the exception of a few who held PTO's in the urban centres held rights of usufruct over communal lands. The Namibian Independence Constitution does recognise this classification and the various systems of land tenure. However, the Government has recognised the injustices of the colonial laws of land tenure and particularly the problems relating to the ownership and administration of the communal lands. Within the parameters of the Constitution, pieces of legislation have been promulgated and new policies have been formulated aimed at both land distribution and land reform.

Review of Southern African Studies Volume 3 No. 1 June 1999, pp. 1-37

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eISSN: 1024-4190