Dump new land proposal

2014-06-29 15:00

When the rural development and land reform department’s new land reform proposals first came to our attention in early April, some folks at this paper thought it was a delayed April Fools’ joke.

The discussion document, titled Final Policy Proposals for Strengthening the Relative Rights

of People Working the Land, contains far-reaching proposals on land ownership.

The main thrust is that 50% of commercial land must be handed over to farm workers. The state would finance the 50% purchase but instead of the money going to the farmer, it would be put into an investment development fund.

The fund would be used for further development of the farm. Farm workers’ shares would be based on their past contribution to the enterprise.

The document cited the Freedom Charter clause that says the wealth of the land would be shared among those who work it.

The idea of farm workers having a stake in the farms on which they work should be encouraged in the same way companies are encouraged to give their workers shares in their firms.

But this idea is preposterous and a radical departure from current policy.

Firstly, taking away half of someone’s property without paying for it amounts to expropriation without compensation and may violate the principle of protection of property.

It would meet constitutional challenges. This approach is unworkable as it would affect the more skilled farmers’ capacity to make decisions.

This approach would devastate agriculture and severely compromise South Africa’s food security, which should be the cornerstone of all endeavours in the sector.

The document is causing worry in a sector that the National Development Plan (NDP) identifies as a creator of up to a million jobs by 2030.

What is most perturbing about this document is that it seems to have come from nowhere. It

is not aligned to the NDP’s extensive chapter on agriculture. It also does not seem to have been processed through ANC policy platforms.

Minister Gugile Nkwinti has to withdraw the document as a matter of urgency. He must get his advisers and bureaucrats to study the NDP, which has some innovative ideas around land reform and the empowerment of farm workers.

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