Saai: Presidential report on land reform is disappointing

The Southern Africa Agri-Initiative (Saai) is disappointed with the report presented by the so-called advisory panel of land reform experts to cabinet, and at this stage wants to put forward an opposite view on key aspects of the report.

The report is obviously flawed because it is not morally justifiable that individual landowners, who legally bought their properties, should foot the bill of land reform as a national responsibility.

It avoids any reference to how agricultural financing – as one of the cornerstones of competitive primary production in South Africa – will be affected. Every farmer in South Africa runs the risk of losing a farm or two, but the banks can lose all farms that serve as security for their product financing.

Saai is particularly disappointed with the superficial, over-simplified and one-sided version of the history of land ownership (which also contains blatant falsehoods), which was offered to ideologically justify the rest of the report. As a result, the panel and its members position themselves as inciters of division and racial tension, rather than a solution-driven influence on the land issue.

In the exaggerated emphasis on the rights of farm squatters, and the concomitant criticism of the application of the security of tenure laws, the unilateral approach of the panel screams to high heaven. There is no hint of a reference to overgrazing, arson, crime or intimidation that landowners have to endure daily in South Africa at the hands of farm squatters, in the worst security environment in the world. The panel’s real intentions are all too obvious.

Saai also questions the sources on which the panel’s figures for farm evictions are based. If 1 679 471 farm squatters were evicted from farms, and if there are 35 000 commercial farmers, it means that each farmed had evicted an average of 48 people from their farms!

Saai rejects the panel’s demand that the state should take over, dissolve or destroy the Ingonyama Trust (or any other trust). This is an attack on both the cultural identity and the spiritual goods of the Zulu people, and on trusts as legitimate legal entities. Thousands of immovable properties in South Africa are held in trusts, and the panel does not shed light on how such draconian action will be limited to the Ingonyama Trust. There is no reason to expropriate the Zulu’s historic heartland or to grab it from their hands.

In their proposals for the financing of land reform, the panel displays glaring naivety. Until the world, and especially wealthy South Africans, are convinced that corruption and maladministration are being addressed, and that there are consequences for the perpetrators, voluntary contributions to land reform will not materialise. Who can possibly be expected to make any contributions if they suspect that it will end up in the pockets of untouchable cadres?

Saai fully endorses the panel’s proposal that title deeds should be transferred to land reform beneficiaries. This will prevent a scenario where, in 10 years’ time, South Africa will again have two categories of farmers: white farmers who own their farms, and black farmers who have been condemned to eternal tenant status on state-leased land. However, this proposal appears incongruous in the same document that also recommends expropriation without compensation – unless the amendment to the Constitution specifies that this applies only to white people.