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.