Land Reform

Land reform is a political tool that seeks to challenge and counterbalance land ownership on the basis of colonialism and apartheid based on the presupposition that being white in complexion means having the privilege to own everything under the sun. Basically, the victims of colonialism and apartheid with regards to land dispossession of the past,almost 400 years are Afrikaans. The current land reform identifies some legitimate claimants though, based on the documents submitted to process the claims, however the fact of the matter is, all Afrikaans, the descendants of the colonized predecessors, are claimants by virtue of birth and historical facts. The thorny questions is “who selected these few Afrikaans to be beneficiaries, whereas most of us are left out”? The scramble for Africa was not a selective thing, all Afrikans were robbed off their land, that is the fact. Then, this land reform lacks holistic approach, and happens to be skew, thus failing to achieve the objective.

Currently, South Africa is allegedly reported to have about 50 million people, all citizens. Out of these people who should own land? Is it in our best interest for a few to own vast tracks of land? To me it is a myth to say, in order to run business you must or ought to own property particularly land. The key thing with regards to land is strictly access and right to utilize the natural resources. The notion of owning land, is being prompted by greed, period. Man is not born to own land, but to till the land and plant crops to fend for himself naturally and when his time is up, he will be planted on the land, thus man will be dust that belongs to the grave. It is just ego that fools man to think he owns land. My forefathers had gone through throes of losing land and being turned into slaves, and being the child and grand child of former-tenant-labour system parents and grandparents, it really makes my blood cringe to know that even the graves of my ancestors are owned as property of someone, as per colonialism and apartheid dictated. So what is the practical solution for mammoth,daunting task upon us? Strictly, the State must take ownership, meaning that all people are share-owners of the land. I believe there is nobody who owns rivers and water contained in, thereof, so why must some people own land?

Given two opposing forces with regards to Land Reform, one wonders how social cohesion will ever be a reality in South Africa. That trend on its own is further entrenching hunger and poverty. It must be spelled out explicitly: being a recipient of a land claim, does not automatically translate one into a seasoned, skilful farmer. Not at all. Farming, as much as other professions or occupations, is all to do about passion, knowledge of the subject matter, hardwork and dedication, and what one owns is of little importance. Owning the land is the eurocentric concept, driven by individualism and greed, whereas in Africa, land from traditional hierachy point of view is collectively owned by people . There is no such thing as private property amongst Africans. In the mean time Africa with its plenty arable land, can hardly afford to produce adequate food for its own people, and has to import food at the exorbitant price. Furthermore, current formula of giving land to wishful,weekend farmers to be, is recipe for disaster, in terms of food security, natural resources degradation and financial risks, because when these hype-driven farmers fall flat on their stomachs, they demand financial assistance from the State, pouring public funds into private ventures. It is so unfortunate, most of the land claim recipients can hardly produce anything, just to feed themselves, let alone supplying the markets and this does not bode well for country like South Africa faced with economic, social and developmental challenges.

When facing challenging times, those leading, must not be blinded by ego, when things do not go as planned. Pity though, some men and women find themsleves wearing big boots and cannot make any mark where ever they operate. This remninds me of my Agricultural Economics lecturer, S.E Kubheka, who said “begin with and end in mind, in order to reach your destiny”, and today I can see, he was referring to vision. Those who are prone to read religious publications, will know that it is said “where there is no vision, people perish” if my memory serves me well. Land Reform is currently in shambles, and it is to a large degree a financial waste and exarcebating underdevelopment in rural areas. Claimed land had comes at a price, however those land reform beneficiaries were ill-prepared to start with to run big, commercial farms, and every year public funds are used to save these farms, yet no public benefit is derived from such white elephant projects. The fallow lands are just shrinking the food pie at our own expense and to import food won’t come cheap though, due to global food price fluctuations from time to time.

The land reform will only bring about transformation when it is deliberately depersonalized, deracialized and incentivised for the interests of the people. By doing so, the notion of getting rich quick will be eliminated from the equation, since all venturing into farming business will do so, solely driven by passion, economic motive and entrepreneurship than by ownership of land on the ticket of political affiliation. So far,land reform has been able to produce fly by night farmers, and most of them have been classical examples of the dismal failure of our politics to prioritize projects as per nation’s demands at these recet times of globalisation. This therefore, calls for drastic, radical modification of the whole land reform policy, where the core issue will be the mutual benefit of the public, rather than producing black, neo-elites with the same agenda as colonialists. Land reform, if not handled correctly, poses a great threat to South Africa. It is high time, we realize that land is there for us to live, not for us to exploit to satisfy our ulterior motives. It is either we made right decisions or wrong ones. Whatever the outcomes might be,  the successes or failures will be our responsibilities collectively as people of South Afrika, and Afrika at large.

Profile photo of Sithembiso Mahlaba

Sithembiso Mahlaba

An agriculturist by profession, blogger by passion, prominent opinion-maker without favour or fear.

5 thoughts on “Land Reform

  • August 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    i have read this article but he fails to further elabote on the issues he has raised and he has also raised issues but he doesnt give any solutions to these problems. we all know the issues and problems of south africa it’s about time we get to come up with solution we have enough problem analysis people nd the half told history lessons must come to an end.

    • September 6, 2011 at 8:14 am

      Thank you very much aluthav for your feedback. However to answer you, I have just picked one of the sentences within my article to highlight what I believe would be solution to all South Africans, given our racial inequities of colonial past, with regards to land dispossession. “So what is the practical solution for mammoth,daunting task upon us? Strictly, the State must take ownership, meaning that all people are share-owners of the land. I believe there is nobody who owns rivers and water contained in, thereof, so why must some people own land?”

  • September 8, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Yes i see your response but would it be relevant to the South African political demographics for the government to take ownership of the land. would the masses of this country benefit from these solutions you are proposing.

  • September 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Well, with regards to demographics, if that can be used to equate to landownership that would mean blacks would need about 80%  or more of the land, whereas the whites having to have the remainder. Well, the  challenge with this currently, of which I did raise in the main article is that not everybody wants to be the farmer, and to own land thereof does not automatically translate one into seasoned farmer. So taking into account food securtity issues and globalized economy it would serve the country best to ensure that those who are passionate about farming  are given access to arable land. I am not convinced that to be the farmer, one needs to own land, lease would best suite all, and revenue generated out of it, would be funds for service delivery,thus everyone will directly or indirectly benfit.

  • January 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Wow! What an interesting article and exchange. Whilst I applaud the valiant attempt to grapple with such a complex issue, I’m afraid I must disagree with the idea to nationalise all land.
    One of the core ingredients for successful economic development is that private enterprise (including private land ownership) must be allowed to flourish. Whilst state-ownership is not in itself an entirely flawed idea, it’s success depends on the goodness of the central government. In other words, allowing the state to own all land exposes the nation to the whims of the national government. Just north of the Limpopo we have seen a land reform program, which was in itself supposed to be a boon for the African people, abused and crippled by the corruption and patronage of the ruling party.
    I think that a combinatioon of free-hold and communal land tenure will provide better safeguards. A cap should be put on the size of land that can be owned by an individual and preference given to communities and/or co-operatives which collectively decide how to use the land.


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