Guest Column

Land reform is a political ploy

2017-02-26 06:29
Ernst Roets, AfriForum. Picture: Theana Breugem

Ernst Roets, AfriForum. Picture: Theana Breugem

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Ernst Roets

In “Return land to the people” (City Press, February 19 2017), Deputy Minister Ayanda Dlodlo argued for the expropriation of white-owned land without compensation. “Our pursuit of economic justice through the resolution of the land question can no lo, but a reality of today,” she said, adding that “Our people have suffered too long to stand idle and nurse the feelings of those who hold on to white privilege to the exclusion of the rest.”

As with the ANC and other leftist movements, Dlodlo is either ill-informed, or doesn’t care about the truth, which is that the cry for land reform is a political ploy that is not supported by the people and is severely detrimental to South Africans.

So let’s deal with these points one by one.

Fewer than 1% of black people have instituted land claims and a mere 7% of those who did have indicated that they actually want land. The rest have said that they would prefer money. A recent study by the South African Institute of Race Relations found that only 1% of people believe that more land reform would improve people’s lives.

Also, black South Africans, more than any other group, seem to want to live in cities, rather than in rural areas. From 2000 to 2013, the population of so-called black Africans in Johannesburg increased by 66.6%. The corresponding number for Cape Town is 79.6% and for Pretoria it is 63.4%.

According to the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, more than 90% of farms redistributed from white people to black people fail and usually revert to either subsistence farming or squatter camps.

This is a disastrous policy – not only for the farms that have been taken from white people and given to black people, but for the employees who are left without jobs, the local communities, and for every single person living within the borders of South Africa, including the majority of black people who would prefer to live in cities, rather than on farms. Ironically, at the same time government also expects the declining agricultural community to create 1 million additional jobs by 2030.

The disastrous consequence of land reform should not be surprising if it is kept in mind that only 2.8% of all university students enrol for agricultural science or similar courses. This, combined with the chaotic state of South Africa’s agricultural colleges, makes it quite predictable that education and training in the science of agriculture are in a dismal state.

If government was serious about black land ownership, it would do well to take advice from the Free Market Foundation and AfriBusiness: The single biggest step that government can take to “give land back to the people” would be to convert RDP housing from government-owned land to full and unrestricted freehold title for the people living on it. The right to own property is, however, denied in townships and, quite ironically, this amounts to racial discrimination against black people.

The fact is that, for the ANC, it’s not about uplifting black people as much as about centralising power in the ANC-run state – a point that Dlodlo accidentally exposes when she rails about the fact that the state “only” owns 14 out of every 100 hectares of land in this country.

Ernst Roets is deputy CEO of AfriForum

Follow him @ErnstRoets

Read more on:    afriforum  |  anc  |  land


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