Simply seizing land could make SA a second Zim - analyst

Johannesburg – Calls to seize land is not necessarily the path to economic liberation, and South Africa might follow the same path as Zimbabwe if it does not take heed to its neighbour's lessons, said political economist Moeletsi Mbeki.

Mbeki was speaking alongside a panel of experts at the inaugural Courageous Conversations dialogue hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation on Wednesday night. Other speakers included former RMB chief executive and current chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) Sizwe Nxasana, University of Pretoria’s Chancellor Wiseman Nkuhlu and Investec’s chief economist Annabel Bishop.

Mbeki was explaining the importance of dialogue on issues as a way forward for South Africa, one of these being land reform. He expressed his concerns over calls by the EFF for land reform.

“These are highly qualified people with no idea about the history of South Africa ... They come up with policies to seize land, and to do what with it, they don’t know,” he said.

Mbeki explained that it was important to take lessons on land reform from Zimbabwe. As a journalist in the 80s, Mbeki explained how he covered the economic change following Zimbabwe’s independence.

Of his observations, Mbeki said Zimbabwe’s problem was not land redistribution, but rather access to capital. “There was no capital to drive modern agriculture in Zimbabwe.”

Eventually, Zimbabwean farmers became enslaved to other economies, explained Mbeki. For example Zimbabwe’s tobacco growers “are now slaves” to Chinese cigarette companies. “About 80% of tobacco growers are given money by the Chinese to grow tobacco to the specifics of Chinese cigarette companies.”

Mbeki added: “Before they sold to an open market, now they are slaves to China.”

This has been to nobody's benefit, he said. “We must understand our own history and learn from other African countries.”

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