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South Africa Land Reform Has Problems, But Few Similarities to Zimbabwe

  • Delia Robertson

South Africa Land Reform Has Problems, But Few Similarities to Zimbabwe

South Africa Land Reform Has Problems, But Few Similarities to Zimbabwe

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In South Africa this week, the opposition Democratic Alliance Party issued a report criticizing the country's land reform program.

It says the program is failing because most of the people given land have no interest in agriculture and many of the farms are in dire condition.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson, in Johannesburg, describes the South Africa land reform program as "quite complicated."

"There's land restitution in which people, who formerly owned sections of land and were kicked off their land by the apartheid government after 1910, could apply to have their land restored to them or…to get compensated," she says.

Compensation is being given to those whose land was seized but has since been developed and can no longer be returned.

"Then there is…land redistribution. And that is an attempt by the government to put in the hands of black owners 30 percent of land in the country by 2014," she says.

In this case, the government buys private land for redistribution.

There have been some problems

Land reform in South Africa has been underway since the mid-1990s.

"Land redistribution is woefully behind. The government does not look like
it's going to be able to meet its own targets…. In land restitution, they have almost fully completed all the restitution claims that were put in. And that has taken also longer…(than) they thought it would take," she says.

But there are problems on some of the farms themselves.

"The people who have been resettled on their original land or who have been given other land…have simply not managed to farm that land…and producing at the same levels as it did before when there were commercial farmers managing it. But in some cases it's worked out fine," she says.

She says often the problems have to do with a lack of farming skills or an inability to find capital.

Not like Zimbabwe

South Africa's neighbor, Zimbabwe, instituted a controversial land reform program in which the government seized white-owned farms and gave the land to blacks. Some of those farms went to high ranking government officials. Agriculture production declined sharply.

Robertson says there's no comparison between the countries' land reform programs.

"The South African land reform program is done in terms of the law. It is done legally and openly, that everyone can see what's going on. There have been land invasions, but they have been frowned upon by the government," she says.

She says commercial and white-owned land in South Africa has not been nationalized "via the back door as has happened in Zimbabwe. So you really can't compare the two countries. It's a completely different program."

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