News / Africa

Black Farmers in South Africa Still Struggling with Land Reform

South Africa's plans to undo the wrongs of apartheid by returning land seized from native blacks is embodied in the life of farmer Koos Mthimkhulu, shown inspecting his crop at his farm in Senekal, February 29, 2012.
South Africa's plans to undo the wrongs of apartheid by returning land seized from native blacks is embodied in the life of farmer Koos Mthimkhulu, shown inspecting his crop at his farm in Senekal, February 29, 2012.
South African President Jacob Zuma revealed another land-reform strategy last week in South Africa, less than two months before the ruling ANC’s party elections.   Land reform was one of the major promises made to the black population after the end of apartheid, but it has not worked out as planned.

Land reform, failing

Solomon Mokwena opens the rusty door of the barn and proudly walks in, showing the farming machines he partly owns.  Ten years ago, the South African government bought the land from a white farmer for distribution to disadvantaged black farmers.  The goal was to reverse the inequalities of the white-minority rule era, when black people were not allowed to own land.

Mokwena and 200 farmers formed a cooperative to manage the land.  The former owner grew maize and sunflowers on the fertile land, but in the past decade, Mokwena says the cooperative's machines have been used only once.

"We did plough once in 2002.  We never ploughed again," he stated.

Mokwena explains the cooperative lacks funds to work the land, to buy seeds, fuel and fertilizer.

The land is now being leased to another farmer, who makes money out of it.  The rent the cooperative receives is just enough to pay the electric bill.

The failure of Mokwena's cooperative is common.  About 90 percent of the farms distributed to black farmers since the launch of land reform 16 years ago are no longer productive.

Michael Zulu is one of the farmers in Mokwena's cooperative.  He had worked in the farming industry for 20 years before joining the cooperative. 

He said he thought his expertise could help the other farmers and make the cooperative work.

But he said the cooperative's management did not pay the bills and set aside enough for the next year's seeds before running out of cash.

He says the first thing to do, after harvesting, is you must start paying the debts, then you put money aside for the seeds for next year, and pay your employees.  That was not done, and the cooperative quickly ran out of money.

When land reform began in the mid 1990s, more than 80 percent of the commercial farms in South Africa were owned by white farmers.  The ruling ANC party had promised to redistribute one-third of them to black farmers by 2014.  Today, less than eight percent of the land has been redistributed, and the land reform minister has admitted the target will not be reached.

Increased competition

Senior researcher at Cape Town's Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian studies, Ruth Hall, partly explains this failure by the fact that black farmers entering the industry face increased competition.

"South Africa now has a very liberalized economy, in which new black farmers are competing not only with established white farmers, who have had the benefit of learning over time, but also with other producers on the global market," said Hall.

Hall says the government provides some training, but this only reaches one percent of the farmers.

South African President Jacob Zuma announced a new strategy for land reform last week.  Among other measures, he proposes to buy the land from white farmers at 50 percent of the market price, versus 100 percent today.  But many experts have slammed the measures as hazardous and purely political.

Hall says the pressure is high to make land reform work. "Clearly the land reform process, if done right, could substantially improve food security, by promoting different scales and types of production," he added. "But also by broadening it out and making incomes less unequal."

Hall says if the ANC does not seriously tackle land reform, it could affect the party's rule.

Land reform remains a very sensitive problem in South Africa, as the shadow of what happened in neighboring Zimbabwe looms over government policy.  Zimbabwe's once-flourishing agriculture sector collapsed after it forcibly expropriated white farmers.  The ANC Youth league has recently called for the same kind of evictions in South Africa.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Johan du Toit from: Mossel Bay
October 31, 2012 12:04 PM
Read the article again! They formed a cooperative with 200 members for one farm! Michael Zulu is talking about paying the workers! My question is,what is wrong with the 200 farmers,can't they do the work themselves? It seems that there are to many bosses on this farm!


by: Jasper
October 30, 2012 3:19 PM
What about that disasterous Zimbabwe land reform program where many farms were expropriated, which resulted in the deaths of some farmers and thousands of farm workers rendered without employment, not to mention loss of agricultural output and beef herds. The agricultural meltdown has started, how it will be reversed is key to avoiding imminent starvation.


by: KWAME from: GHANA
October 30, 2012 4:59 AM
Let us stop the noise-making and allow the Whites who are better at managing the natural resources do their work.
I hope we learn from them. Zimbabwe and the failure story above should be part of the evidence that should make us repent from our wasteful ways!
What with Heads of States and other leaders spending millions on their birthday parties and multiple marriages when these millions could be spent on educational infrastructure and improvements.
Let us repent from our ways and do the right things and we will make progress. WE NEED TO WORK AND NOT WASTE RESOURCES.
SOUTH AFRICA, REMEMBER ZIMBABWE!


by: Harry Jukes from: South Africa
October 29, 2012 11:39 AM
I would also want to know when the American government is planing to return the land they seized from the Native American
Population and the Australian Government the land they seized from the Aboriginal population??


by: Walter du Toit from: South Africa
October 29, 2012 8:55 AM
When is the American government planning to return the land seized from the Native American population?

In Response

by: Ty Hager from: USA
October 29, 2012 3:03 PM
Its not.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid