Bet­ting on the land re­form farm: so who will get lucky?

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - CAROL PATON Paton is edi­tor at large.

Where did agri­cul­ture, land re­form & ru­ral de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter Thoko Didiza sud­denly find 700,000ha of state land to re­lease” to black farm­ers on a 30-year lease­hold scheme?

That is a large amount of land. One hectare is al­most the size of two foot­ball fields. On av­er­age since 1994 the govern­ment has dis­trib­uted 100,000ha a year, so this is seven years of land re­form all at once. It should make a dif­fer­ence to the land hunger that lies behind calls for ex­pro­pri­a­tion and land in­va­sions. But will it?

The In­sti­tute for Poverty, Land and Agrar­ian Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of the Western Cape (UWC) hosted a panel dis­cus­sion last week at which re­searchers and land rights lobby groups raised doubts that this could be the land re­form boon we have all been wait­ing for.

Both Prof Ruth Hall and land rights lob­by­ist Tshepo Fokane said that be­cause the bulk of the re­leased land is in the North West and Lim­popo, it is likely that the 896 farms in ques­tion were not bought from white com­mer­cial farm­ers re­cently, but is land that was bought by the state to con­sol­i­date the ban­tus­tans back in the 1970s and ’ 80s. The catch is that much of this land is al­ready oc­cu­pied by com­mu­ni­ties and black farm­ers who have been there for many years.

Didiza has ac­knowl­edged this com­pli­ca­tion, say­ing a land in­quiry process will in­ves­ti­gate how in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties oc­cu­py­ing the land got ac­cess to it and how it is be­ing used, and a de­ci­sion will be taken on such oc­cu­pa­tions”.

The big ques­tion is, who will get the farms? Didiza pro­poses a sort of ten­der process. There will be ad­verts in lo­cal me­dia and screening of in­di­vid­ual ap­pli­ca­tions by district ben­e­fi­ciary screening com­mit­tees that will report to pro­vin­cial com­mit­tees, which will re­fer the de­ci­sion to a na­tional se­lec­tion com­mit­tee for fi­nal ad­ju­di­ca­tion.

How­ever, district-based al­lo­ca­tion has been deeply prob­lem­atic. Those with op­por­tu­ni­ties and po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions con­sis­tently make it to the front of the queue, says Fokane.

In a study done by the UWC unit it was found that 80% of ben­e­fi­cia­ries of land re­form were men and close to half were well-off busi­ness­men from the district. State of­fi­cials have ben­e­fited from land re­dis­tri­bu­tion by get­ting farms for them­selves and squeez­ing out ben­e­fi­cia­ries who won’t pay bribes. They have even kicked black farm­ers off land they have been farm­ing suc­cess­fully for years.

Didiza men­tioned a few cri­te­ria. This time, women would be pri­ori­tised and so would those with farm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, though the com­pletely in­ex­pe­ri­enced would not be ex­cluded. But the strug­gle for land, which has led to the pop­ulist call for ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion and which is driv­ing the ir­re­press­ible land in­va­sion in ur­ban and peri­ur­ban ar­eas, won’t be solved by a ten­der process.

For this a dif­fer­ent starting point is re­quired. Who needs land? What rights should they have? And how does the state

which is en­joined by the con­sti­tu­tion to pro­vide cit­i­zens with both eq­ui­table ac­cess to land and ten­ure se­cu­rity — go about al­lo­cat­ing it in a way that pro­motes these rights?

These are ques­tions that have been side­lined by the govern­ment for the past 20 years. Even though SA went through “na­tional lib­er­a­tion” there was no large-scale agrar­ian re­form, which — as many de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have found — is a crit­i­cal pil­lar of poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and build­ing sus­tain­able liveli­hoods.

In­stead, what has hap­pened is a huge mi­gra­tion from ru­ral ar­eas to ur­ban slums. The ANC (coaxed by the EFF) has re­sponded by claim­ing that ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion is the an­swer. On Fri­day, the govern­ment pub­lished a new Ex­pro­pri­a­tion Bill, which along with the pro­posed amend­ment to sec­tion 25 of the con­sti­tu­tion will make the cir­cum­stances where ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion can ap­ply ex­plicit.

But it has been clear from the start that this is not the root of the prob­lem. The new bill con­firms that the govern­ment had the power to ex­pro­pri­ate with­out com­pen­sa­tion all along. What it lacked was the po­lit­i­cal will to do so. For­mer pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe’s high­level panel report in 2017 did an as­sess­ment of land re­form, rec­om­mend­ing new frame­work leg­is­la­tion to set stan­dards for, and make in­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ments for, eq­ui­table ac­cess to land.

In the wider pic­ture of eco­nomic jus­tice, agrar­ian re­form rates at the top of the list and could change mil­lions of lives. It will be rob­bery of the ru­ral poor and a dan­ger to fu­ture pros­per­ity if SA con­tin­ues along the path it has laid, leas­ing land to the welloff and ig­nor­ing the real land hunger out there.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.