South Africa plans to adopt a fresh take on its failing land redistribution programs after an increasing number of Black farmers have resorted to selling their land back to whites; feeling unsupported and unprepared to take on the large commercial farms they have been sold.
Although white South Africans make up less than 10 percent of the population, they own nearly 90 percent of all the country’s farmable land. This inequity in ownership is due to the decades of harsh colonialism and apartheid rule that seized land from existing Black farmers and vested ownership in whites. When apartheid ended in 1994, the South African government took on the task of redistributing farmlands by purchasing them from willing white buyers and selling them to Blacks at a fraction of the cost. But the scheme did not develop as planned given that many Black farmers were not prepared to take on the large farms.
According to the Associated Press, Gugile Nkwinti, the minister of land reform, said Black farmers have resold nearly 30 percent of the white farmland bought for them by the government, often selling back to the previous white owners.
Now the government is attempting to reform its policies in order to beef up Black farm ownership and attempt to hit its goal of transferring 30 percent of farms by 2014.
Although officials are skeptical about hitting the 2014 goal for financial reasons, a new paper published Wednesday will facilitate discussion about the government’s revised plans for increasing and maintaining higher numbers of Black farm ownership. The new plans propose a mixture of leasing state and public land, placing limits on private land, imposing conditions and obligations on land ownership for foreign owners and imposing communal tenure on land under traditional chiefs.
South Africa is taking care to tread lightly on the issue of land reform, as its calculated approach is a far cry from neighboring Zimbabwe, where president Robert Mugabe summarily seized the country’s white-owned farms and redistributed them to Blacks. The land seizures in Zimbabwe have often been violent and some have blamed them for the country’s agricultural scarcity.
(Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko)