Cor­rect­ing mis­per­cep­tions

Finweek English Edition - - Letters - MICHAEL ALIBER

I’D LIKE TO COM­MEND Fin­week for re­port­ing on land is­sues to the ex­tent it does. How­ever, I’m writ­ing in or­der to cor­rect some mis­per­cep­tions cre­ated by your re­port head­lined “Ru­mours aren’t

un­founded” (18 Jan­uary 2007).

That re­port, among other things, sought to re­late cer­tain find­ings from three re­cently com­pleted re­search re­ports, of which I was the project co-or­di­na­tor and in one in­stance co-au­thor. Some of those mis­per­cep­tions are harm­less enough (though my co-au­thors of the one re­port might be con­cerned to learn that they have left their re­spec­tive in­sti­tu­tions to join mine) but oth­ers are as alarm­ing as they’re false.

My great­est con­cern is that, ac­cord­ing to your re­port, our re­search found that land re­dis­tri­bu­tion has led to mas­sive job losses on farms in Sakhi­sizwe Mu­nic­i­pal­ity (East­ern Cape) and to eco­nomic de­cline in Ma­luti-aPho­fung Mu­nic­i­pal­ity (Free State).

No. That isn’t what we found and not what we said. I take it on faith that this was an hon­est mis­un­der­stand­ing on the part of the jour­nal­ist and didn’t re­flect a wish to sen­sa­tion­alise. What we have drawn at­ten­tion to is that land re­form isn’t suc­ceed­ing in com­pen­sat­ing for the job losses and rural eco­nomic de­pres­sion that have oc­curred in­de­pen­dently of it.

One of the big ques­tions re­gard­ing land re­form, and re­gard­ing land re­dis­tri­bu­tion in par­tic­u­lar, is whether it can lead to a net cre­ation of liveli­hoods in the face of un­ceas­ing haem­or­rhag­ing of farm­work­ers’ jobs. Our re­search shows, un­for­tu­nately, that land re­dis­tri­bu­tion projects aren’t gen­er­ally char­ac­terised by an in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of land use or ap­pli­ca­tion of own labour, nor is the over­all approach to land re­dis­tri­bu­tion ca­pa­ble of af­fect­ing sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of peo­ple.

To­gether with other ev­i­dence, we sur­mise that there are crit­i­cal flaws in the approach to land re­dis­tri­bu­tion that, if cor­rected, could re­sult in sig­nif­i­cant wel­fare gains, par­tic­u­larly for the poor. Though some of our re­search find­ings are in­deed dis­cour­ag­ing, in con­trast to what’s im­plied by the com­ments cited in the same re­port by the Transvaal Agri­cul­tural Union, we be­lieve the ev­i­dence points to the con­clu­sion that an ef­fec­tive land re­dis­tri­bu­tion is both nec­es­sary and pos­si­ble.

How­ever, mod­estly, our re­search aims to serve a con­struc­tive role in clar­i­fy­ing th­ese na­tional chal­lenges and iden­ti­fy­ing ways to ad­dress them.

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