Urban property not sellable to foreigners if LA-amendment Act becomes law

Coastal local authorities are yet to voice their opinions publi-cly on the proposed amendment of the Local Authorities Act of 1992, which would among others see the Minister of Urban and Rural Development picking local authority Chief Executives Officers in future and also prohibiting foreigners from any future form of land ownership in Namibia.
The National Council visited the coastal municipalities of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay last week to put the proposed amendments under discussion. Nami-bia’s bi-cameral parliamentary system makes provision for the National Assem-bly to propose le-gislation and amend-ments to existing legislation, but the National Council takes these pro-posals to the people in all fourteen Regions. The National Council, based on this input and findings from its own discus-sions, makes a final recommendation to the National Assem-bly before such legislation can go through the readings, discussion and adop-tion.
The alienation of im-movable property for Namibian citizens and appointment of chief executive officers (CEOs) formed the basis of discussions during the Local Aut-horities Amendment Bill public hearing in the National Council Friday.
The Bill was referred to the National Coun-cil (NC) by the National Assembly (NA) in November last year with amend-ments, and thereafter it was referred to joint house committees for further deliberation.
Issues pertaining to the restriction of the sales of immovable pro-perty were raised as one of the deficiencies arising from the initiation of the Bill.
Clause 33A (3) and Clause 33B(1)(a) of the Amendment Bill state that a foreign national may not acquire immovable property in a local authority area and that a Namibian owner of immovable property situated in a local authority area who intends to alienate the property may only alienate the property to a Namibian citizen.
Representatives from the property and real estate industry felt that this would scare away foreign investment which impacts the market negatively, and thus it would be cum-bersome to pass the Bill. Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) research asso-ciate, Max Weylandt, said several provisions in the Bill are coun-terproductive.
He stated that allowing foreigners to purchase property in Namibia would increase com-petition and lower prices.
He added that prohibit-ing foreign purchase would discourage foreign investment in Namibia and at a time when economies around the world are concerned about another recession, Namibia cannot afford to turn down the capital needs of the country.
Weylandt further sta-ted that the IPPR was concerned that the local authorities were not consulted when the initial Bill was drafted.
“We therefore urge all our elected representa-tives to begin the process again by con-sulting all stake-holders and drawing up a new Bill,” he said.
The second amend-ment in the Bill that local authorities are unhappy about is the appointment of new CEOs, citing that the clause provided in the Bill gives the line minister more aut-hority in the appoint-ment process, thus making the work of local councillors irre-levant.
The mayor of the City of Windhoek, Muesee Kazapua, stated during the public hearing that the Bill also takes away the element of accountability as the minister is garnished with more powers and control over elected council members and local authorities.
“In our view, the proposed amendments impact negatively, and in a profound manner, the goals of our consti-tution and the stated ideals of devolution of power through decen-tralisation, the princi-ples of accountability and democratic gover-nance,” the mayor said.
Gobabis Municipality management commit-tee member, Liberius Kalili noted that the amended provisions of the Bill are that the appointment of a CEO will be done by the management com-mittee of the local authority, but appro-val should be solicited by the line minister.
“We want the current status quo to remain as it is,” he further stated.
Other concerns raised about the Bill were the literacy require-ments for electing members of a local authority; suspension of a local authority; the appointment of a CEO; procedures and conducts of discipli-nary inquiries; po-wers of local authori-ty councils; and restrictions on the sale of immovable prop-erty and alienation thereof.
Minister of Rural and Urban Development, Sophia Shaningwa, who responded to some of the issues raised by the local councillors and stake-holders during the public hearing, said the issue of local councillors required to communicate in the official language, English, will be with-drawn from the Bill.
Every member of a local authority is required to communi-cate, read and write in the official language.
The NC’s first session for the year takes place on Monday.

NAMPA and own reporting.

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