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South Africa Expert Urges Full Support for New Land Policy

  • Peter Clottey

South African President Jacob Zuma delivers the State of the Nation Address during the opening of parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 10, 2011 (file photo)

South African President Jacob Zuma delivers the State of the Nation Address during the opening of parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 10, 2011 (file photo)

The chairman of the Walter Sisulu University Council is urging South Africa’s government to step up its efforts to publicize its newly announced land policy.

It aims to restrict foreign and privately owned property, and lease out public and state land. It would also increase the amount of land redistributed from white farmers to black farmers.

Somadoda Fikeni, who is also a policy expert, said the new plan needs to be well monitored and executed to achieve its objectives. He said the previous land policy did not go as well as the administration originally planned.

It had established goals for redistributing commercial land, mostly owned by whites to landless blacks.

“They will be happy to learn that the government has admitted the failure of the land reform program, which had only yielded three percent of the targeted 15 percent [land distribution],” said Fikeni.

Land reform minister Gugile Nkwinti revealed Wednesday that black farmers have resold nearly 30 percent of the white farms the government bought for them often back to the previous white owners.

Nkwinti unveiled a revised land policy paper intended to help redistribute agricultural land and correct anti-black policies enforced during apartheid.

Observers say a majority of agricultural land still remain in the hands of white minority farmers despite the end of apartheid 16 years ago.

Zimbabwe Comparison

Many analysts blame the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy on its agricultural policy. It was based on reforms critics have called a “land grab” which took mostly commercial agricultural land from white farmers and gave them to landless blacks.

Some people expressed concern that if not properly addressed, South Africa’s land policy could undermine its agricultural needs, an assertion Fikeni said is farfetched.

“I doubt it will come to that level. In fact, if South Africa moves very fast to have a more effective land reform policy within its constitutional confines, it stands a better chance of avoiding reforms that ended up being chaotic and outside the constitution in Zimbabwe,” said Fikeni. “The risk of doing nothing…will actually be [what leads] to a Zimbabwe-like situation in the long run.”

New policy prospects

Fikeni said if well implemented, the government’s new policy will go a long way toward ensuring South Africa’s food self-sufficiency and could make the country a breadbasket for Southern Africa.

He said the government must execute and monitor its new land policy effectively.

“Those given land for farming ought to be assisted so food security is not compromised. That in itself will begin to deracialize the commercial farming sector and perhaps bring stability, instead of the current risk and threats where the sector is seen as almost exclusively white,” Fikeni said.

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