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Altering Regulatory Frameworks In Namibia

Merging Informal and Formal Land Tenures

Clarissa Fourie Augustinus

April 2003, English

This paper was written for and presented at a Lincoln Institute course titled, “Comparative Policy Perspectives on Urban Land Market Reform in Eastern Europe, Southern Africa and Latin America,” held July 7-9, 1998.

This paper is an overview with examples of a much larger body of research (Alberts et al. 1995, 1996; Christensen, Werner and Hojgaard 1999). Gratitude is expressed to the Ministry of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Government of Namibia, for permission to publish the findings of my research and that of my colleagues, R. Alberts, J. Shitundeni, A. Corbett, J. Latsky, P. Hojgaard and D. Palmer.

When Namibia became independent from South Africa in 1990, 43 percent of the land was held under customary tenure. In these areas, it was not possible to acquire any form of residential title aside from a permission to occupy (PTO), a weak form of title that was available only for commercial purposes. Moreover, the majority of customary land was located in the north of Namibia, where 45 percent of the country’s population live, and had been under extended military occupation by the South African army. The urban areas there were essentially military creations that had not been established to cater for the local population in any formal sense. Consequently, informal settlement in the north was widespread, and more than 30,000 families had no secure tenure, while in most of the rest of the country a deeds registration system gave secure tenure (Christensen, Werner and Holgaard 1999).