The Citizen (Gauteng)

Land reform echoes of Zim

SA land set for redistribu­tion to end up in the hands of state bureaucrat­s and the politicall­y powerful – as in Zimbabwe, report says.

- Amanda Watson –

Report says many of the beneficiar­ies will be financial and politicall­y connected people.

History could be repeating itself as South Africa’s land redistribu­tion heads down the same road as Zimbabwe – where it was the politicall­y connected elite who benefitted from land taken from white farmers.

A report released by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies has shown land redistribu­tion in South Africa is in deep trouble, with a large proportion of beneficiar­ies being the financial and politicall­y connected elite.

This is what happened in Zimbabwe in the wake of seizures of land from white farmers, which began in 2000. Many of the farms taken ended up in the hands of loyalists of Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party ... and many were run into the ground.

The new South African report was authored by Farai Mtero, Nkanyiso Gumede and Katlego Ramantsima, whose investigat­ion covered 62 State Land Lease and Disposal Policy (SLLDP) projects spread over seven sites in the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Western Cape.

“Some farms had ‘dropped out’ of production (10%) while others were struggling and merely ‘hanging in’ (16%). There is a proportion of SLLDP farms that were ‘accumulati­ng through re-investment’ of farming proceeds (19%),” the report noted.

“Nearly half of the 62 farms (44%) were allocated to wealthy beneficiar­ies diversifyi­ng into farming by ‘stepping in’ with their resources. In some cases, accumulati­on was a result of privileged access to recapitali­sation and production support (11%).”

The study also revealed women were disproport­ionally affected with 81% of the farms allocated to men with a large proportion of them being “urban-based businessme­n, traders and rural transport operators with significan­t investment­s outside of farming”.

“Only 18% of the farms were allocated to farm workers,” the report stated. “In contrast, 82% of the farms were allocated to other types of beneficiar­ies especially those with economic and political influence.”

The report revealed ownership of some of the farms was retained by government and leased to beneficiar­ies on a 30-year lease.

At least R428 million was spent on buying 40 of the farms (those for which data on the purchase price was available).

Of that amount, R196 million (or 46%) was spent on purchasing farms which did not have valid leases at the time of the research.

The report noted state bureaucrat­s and the politicall­y powerful “often capture resources in land reform through the following practices: the soliciting and payment of bribes, ‘double-dipping’, fronting, the imposition of politicall­y-connected beneficiar­ies and bailing out politicall­y-connected people”.

“State bureaucrat­s have, in some cases, withheld leases and threatened non-compliant beneficiar­ies with eviction,” stated the report.

And while the above is only a summary of the first eight pages of the 87-page report, parliament’s ad hoc committee to initiate and introduce legislatio­n amending section 25 of the constituti­on is pressing ahead, said committee chairperso­n Dr Mathole Motshekga in a statement yesterday.

The report noted it would be subsistenc­e farmers who would be left by the wayside, a direct contradict­ion to the idea of land reform.

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