News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Sunday September 15th 2019

Land redistribution announcement needs back up

©Steve Kretzmann/WCN

President Zuma’s latest plan to address stagnating land reform is a positive move, say land and agricultural experts, but clarification of the details, the input of all stakeholders, and government support for black farmers is crucial to its success.

Speaking at the ANC’s 99th birthday bash in Polokwane this weekend, Zuma said land reform would be based on the de-racialisation of the rural economy to enable shared and sustained growth, as well as the democratic and equitable allocation of land across gender, race and class.

Zuma said government was looking at a new three tiered approach to making land available for reform and restitution.

“These are that state land that can only be held through leasehold; freehold with limited extent on private land and foreigners will be allowed to lease land but ownership will revert to South Africans.”

But senior researcher at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, Ruth Hall, said while Zuma was conveying the right message, “a severe and detailed debate” was necessary to flesh out the finer details.

Hall said all relevant sectors of society needed to be involved in developing a workable plan, including the agricultural sector, civil society and NGOs.

She said it was clear that land reform and rural development now rank among the top priorities for the ANC government, yet the challenge for 2011 was to clarify exactly how rural areas were to be transformed.

Questions remained as to who should be getting the land, what new land was being acquired and what new farmer support systems were being put in place to enable effective reform.

The question over how to de-racialise agriculture also needed to be answered: whether it was done by replacing white commercial farmers with black counterparts or to support small holder farming, and if so, how was this to be done?

The provision of extensive support in the field, infrastructure, credit and training for new black farmers was also crucial to sustain reform in the sector.

AgriSA expressed their concern over Zuma’s announcement as the state would remain the biggest land owner.

AgriSA legal and policy advisor Annelize Crosby said it appeared private ownership of land would be limited, “yet it’s a known fact that private investment is what grows any market”.

She warned that as the country’s largest landholder, it was doubtful whether the state could effectively manage food production.

Crosby also cautioned that not allowing foreign ownership of land could scare of potential investors, and suggested that public/private partnerships would be a preferred alternative.

By April 2010, 5.9 million ha, or 6.9 percent, of South Africa’s 86.186 million ha of agricultural land had been redistributed.

Government’s original 1994 target of redistributing 30 percent of South Africa’s arable land by 1999, was extended by 15 years to 2014. However, in 2009 this target was recognised as unfeasible and was abandoned shortly after Minister of Agriculture Tina Joemat-Peterson took office. – Yugendree Naidoo, West Cape News

Tags: agrarian studies, agricultural sector, ANC, anc government, commercial farmers, DA, farming, food, land, land reform, rural economy, ruth hall, South Africa, zuma

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