Fair price for land reform

8 December 2004

Land reform is a priority in South Africa - and the government has given its assurance that the free market system will remain one of the pillars of its redistribution programme.

Speaking at the annual Agri South Africa congress in October, Land Affairs Minister Thoko Didiza reiterated the government's commitment to land reform based on the fair price and "willing buyer, willing seller" model.

At the same time, redistribution of wealth in the agricultural sector has been supported by assurances by the country's commercial farmers that they are intent on making black economic empowerment work.

Agri SA said at its congress that the organisation would actively seek to assist black farmers, and that it has the support of most of the country's farmers.

"We have so many things in common now, I think it's time that all the farmers in South Africa speak with one voice", Agri SA deputy president Bully Bothma told the SA Press Association (Sapa).

Land of the willing
Land reform was one of the main promises made by the African National Congress (ANC) when it came to power in South Africa in 1994. It has proved a complex and slow-moving process, and nearly a decade after the first democratic elections, the government has found itself defending its record on delivery.

In her 2002/03 budget speech, Didiza underlined the complexities of addressing colonial and apartheid legacies regarding land.

"Lest we forget, land reform was - and remains - one of the most onerous challenges facing post-apartheid South Africa", the minister said. "This process has involved engaging with a variety of stakeholders to build a broader buy-in on the noble vision of land reform in South Africa."

The country's land reform programme has three pillars:

  • Restitution, which seeks to to restore land ownership or compensate those forced off land during white rule.
  • Redistribution, of mainly agricultural land, to redress the discriminatory colonial and apartheid policies by providing the disadvantaged and poor with access to land.
  • Land tenure reform, which seeks to secure tenure for all South Africans, especially the more vulnerable, such as farm labourer tenants.
By March 2004 the Department of Land Affairs had handed a total of 810 292 hectares of land to claimants. 48 825 restitution claims involving 122 292 households were settled between 1995 and March 2004, with 662 307 people benefiting from the programme. Not fast enough for some
For many, the land redistribution process is not going fast enough. According to Business Day, South Africa will have to increase delivery fivefold to meet the target of transferring 30% of land to black people by 2015.

Only 3% of agricultural land previously owned by whites has been transferred so far.

The International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organisation, has warned of increased rural violence if the government fails to accelerate land reform, the paper reports.

The organisation says the redistribution process requires more resources - including support from international donors - if it is to achieve its targets.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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Land reform was one of the main promises made by the ANC when it came to power in South Africa in 1994 (Photo: US-Aid)