Don’t let land fall into wrong hands

The Citizen (KZN) - - Opinion -

One of the sad­dest il­lu­sions be­lieved by many peo­ple in mod­ern-day South Africa is that own­ing land will sim­ply make all their prob­lems van­ish. How­ever, that does not mean a thor­ough and eq­ui­table land re­dis­tri­bu­tion pro­gramme is not nec­es­sary. And any such pro­gramme should fo­cus on those liv­ing close to the bot­tom of the so­cial pyra­mid … those who could use land pro­duc­tively to im­prove their lot in life and claw their way out of poverty.

So it is dis­turb­ing that his­tory could be re­peat­ing it­self as South Africa’s land re­form pro­gramme ap­pears to be head­ing down the same road as Zim­babwe, where it was the po­lit­i­cally con­nected and the elite who ben­e­fit­ted.

A re­port, done by the In­sti­tute for Poverty, Land and Agrar­ian Stud­ies into State Land Lease and Dis­posal projects around the coun­try, found that many of the farms were “al­lo­cated to wealthy ben­e­fi­cia­ries”. A large num­ber of these ben­e­fi­cia­ries were “ur­ban-based busi­ness­men, traders and ru­ral trans­port op­er­a­tors with sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments out­side farm­ing”.

Only 18% of the farms were al­lo­cated to farm work­ers, while 82% went to “other types of ben­e­fi­cia­ries, es­pe­cially those with po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence”.

That is ex­actly what hap­pened in Zim­babwe when land taken from white farm­ers from 2000 on­wards mostly ended up in the hands of Zanu-PF of­fi­cials loyal to then-pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe.

The land pro­gramme in Zim­babwe led to a col­lapse of sig­nif­i­cant parts of com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture, the ef­fects of which are still felt to this day.

That must not be al­lowed to hap­pen in this coun­try. Sub­sis­tence farm­ers and poor peo­ple must be at the top of the list when land is handed out – and they must be given the max­i­mum sup­port by govern­ment to farm suc­cess­fully.

Un­less this is done, land will re­main a po­lit­i­cal time bomb and the econ­omy could lose one of its most pro­duc­tive sec­tors.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.