Namibia targets land owned by white farmers

The Government of Namibia has taken the first step towards a Mugabe-style seizure of land owned by white farmers.

Farmers who fail to disclose details of the number of farms they own by Friday have been warned that they face five-year jail sentences. Data verification forms were distributed as the government, under President Sam Nujoma, prepares to introduce a land tax in April aimed at farmers owning "excessive" land. But farmers' representatives say Mr Nujoma, who has threatened to seize white farms in the past, also wants to use the data for his plan to force some farmers to give up their land for resettlement.

President Nujoma is the staunchest ally of the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, and his government appears to be copying the chaotic reforms that have forced most of Zimbabwe's 4,500 white farmers from their land.

Namibia, which became independent from South Africa in 1990, has 4,045 white farmers. The main difference in the two countries' land reform schemes is that Mr Nujoma, who like Mr Mugabe came to power after leading the fight against white rule, is paying the farmers whose land is acquired for resettlement. Mr Mugabe has flatly refused to do that, saying the British taxpayer must pay to compensate for "colonial settler robbery".

The Namibian government says less than a quarter of the country's white farmers have returned the land data forms.

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