Max du Preez

Stop the alternative facts about land reform

2017-02-21 08:25
President Jacob Zuma (Screen grab)

President Jacob Zuma (Screen grab)

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There can only be one reason why President Jacob Zuma and his loyalists lie about the real facts about black participation in the economy and land reform: they’re using emotive issues to mobilise around in order to divert the attention from their greed and corruption.

Inequality along mostly racial lines is still at dangerous levels. But why twist the statistics to make it look worse than it is? Why deny the progress already made? This is an old populist trick.

Misrepresenting the facts about land ownership and wealth is not helping this battle that all South Africans need to fight with great energy and wisdom.

Let’s stick to the facts. We are not a Trump republic.

The lie that has been repeated so often that it is now widely regarded as fact – I heard it again yesterday afternoon on talk radio – is that white South Africans control 90 percent of the economy.

The real situation, as was confirmed on Sunday in an opinion piece by the deputy minister of finance, Mcebisi Jonas, is that 40 percent of the JSE’s capitalisation and 50 percent of the JSE top 40 is foreign owned.

According to Jonas, the state owns and controls about 30 percent of the economy. The Public Investment Corporation is the biggest single investor in the economy with the R1,8 trillion in the pension funds of civil servants (overwhelmingly black) it controls.

Jonas also pointed out that some of the largest segments of “white monopoly capital” are listed primarily on foreign stock exchanges and that their foreign investments and interests far surpass their interests in South Africa.

Economist Mike Shussler wrote this week that the gap between the income of white and black households had shrunk by 40 percent over the last nine years. That is radical progress.

The significant difference in education levels between black and white partly explains the income gap, Schussler says. Blame the past, of course, but also the monumental failure of the governments since 1994 to manage education and skills training like, for instance, Zimbabwe had done.

Zuma told Parliament last week that only 8 million ha of the 82 million ha arable land had thus far been transferred to black owners. That is less than 10 percent, surely a statistic that should let the red lights flash?

On Sunday, Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration Ayanda Dlodlo wrote in City Press that the state only owns 14 percent of the land and that 97 percent was in white hands.

If this were America, I’d call these statements “alternative facts”. Locally we just call them blatant lies.

The total land surface of South Africa is 122 081 300 ha. A quarter is controlled by the state: 15 percent or 18 million ha is communal land in what used to be called “homelands” and other reserves, and 10 percent or 12 million ha consists of conservation areas or property of the SANDF, the SAPS and other national or provincial departments.

18 million plus 12 million plus 8 million ha mean we already have 38 million ha not in white hands.

Another 3 million ha would have been transferred to black owners through the land restitution project, but these beneficiaries preferred financial compensation – over 90 percent of claims, according to the president’s State of the Nation Address. The amount so paid, more than R6 billion, came from taxpayers.

This annoyed Zuma, who urged people to take the land rather than the money because “it perpetuates dispossession”.

He seems to choose to disregard the fact that two out of three South Africans live in cities in towns now. They would prefer urban land, houses, better services and education rather than to go struggle as farmers. That’s why most of them took the money.

One also has to factor in the land that has been bought by black individuals and black-owned companies on the open property market, the significant number of share schemes for farm workers that mean they own half or a significant portion of the land, and the land reform projects of private farmers and agri-business.

The exact figure hasn’t been calculated yet due to insufficient information, but it would be safe to say that in 2017 less than 60 percent of the land belongs to white people. Not 79 percent or 87 percent.

Here’s a shocking piece of information: if the amount of money spent on land transformation since 1994 had been used to buy farms on the open market and transferred to black owners, white South Africans would have owned less than 50 percent of the land in 2017.

Where did all the billions go?

As recently as last week, Zuma and Co. still blamed the principle of willing buyer, willing seller for the slow pace of land reform.

But this principle was chucked out of the window by former President Thabo Mbeki at the Land Summit in 2005 already, a decision that was again formally confirmed in 2012.

Why lie about it now? Obviously to cover up the incompetence and corruption in the responsible departments.

If we don’t have the facts, the real picture, in front of us, we can’t tackle the problem properly. 

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    zuma  |  jacob  |  land reform
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