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The Land Issue - a sensible solution

28 September 2012, 15:32

This issue is endemic to this region. It arises in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia, in particular. During colonization the White settlers grabbed the land, privatized it and then excluded the Black majority from ownership. The resultant legacy is that the White group owns most of the land with the Black majority still dispossessed and, worst still, mere consumers of produce from this land to the economic benefit of the direct descendants of the settlers.

It is therefore perfectly understandable that there is real anger and dissatisfaction with the current situation.  In Zimbabwe the grotesque disparity was used as a populist tool to garner flagging political support, with the White landowners brutally victimized in the process. Land was simply grabbed and “redistributed” in accordance with the political interest of those already in power. 

Still what happened in Zimbabwe, as crude, grotesque, cruel and inhuman as it was, is generally approved of among the dispossessed, disadvantaged masses of Africa, and many in other parts of the World. The reason is that the land issue is not only inherently emotive, it is a touchstone, litmus test of prevailing socio-economic injustice.  No amount of legal and “technically correct” reasoning will alter this reality in the hearts and minds of, not only the disadvantaged masses, but also in the mind of any fair minded human being.  It is a well established truism that if you want to see if there is racism, ignore all the rhetoric, policies and laws,  just see who is benefiting. If one racial group is benefiting, and another excluded from such benefits, the presence of racism is proved. In this instance the gross disparity as regards land ownership, on racial lines, proves racism in this sector as a matter of systemic reality.

Obviously a constitutional democracy like South Africa is obliged to address this. Its Constitution expressly requires that all forms of “previous disadvantage” be redressed. There is a constitutional, legal and moral obligation that has accrued. In addition the matter requires attention purely in terms of “risk management”. Such grotesque social imbalances precipitates social upheaval, sometimes with catastrophic consequences.  Just ask those who found themselves in the tumbrils during the French Revolution.

So what is the solution?  To date we have not seen any sensible solution advanced.  The Zimbabwe model is thoroughly objectionable for obvious reasons, which include gross breaching of fundamental human rights. The SADC Tribunal has correctly ruled accordingly. Land grabbing WILL also guarantee a collapse of the economy, as South Africa becomes an international pariah State as happened with Zimbabwe.

This problem, as a component of sound socio-economic macro management, is not new. None other than Peter F. Drucker with an established international reputation as both a perceptive analyst of the present and an astute seer of the future, whether in management and decision-making theory, economic policy, or political events, tackled this issue head on in his seminal work “The New Realities”, New York.- Harper & Row, Publishers, 1989.

In simple terms, he advocates that the current management of the land issue is fundamentally flawed/misplaced. This should undergo a paradigm change as follows : –

The owners of productive land should receive tax breaks. 

The owners of unproductive land should be taxed for every square meter that is unproductive ... on an increasing scale over time.   

The result will be that –

a) owners will be forced to make land productive, including providing employment;

b) more produce per acre will be the necessary outcome;

c) with owners forced to sell unused/unproductive land;

d) which land government is compelled to take up for redistribution to those who can, and will, produce.

Simple!   Logical!   Fair! … and a very sound business model for the country. Obviously government is then in a position to prosecute innovative, imaginative, sensible programs to make land available to the dispossessed masses in a way that will guarantee good outcomes all round.  Typically the graduates of agricultural colleges receive preference and are then supported after receiving land.  At this point the racial disparity is addressed in a fair, reasonable and advantageous manner.

Social justice test is satisfied ... and it makes sound economic sense.

Now what could be simpler?? … relatively speaking?? 
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