Minister clarifies ANC land policy

2015-05-19 09:23

The latest announcements last week by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, mr Gugile Nkwinti, have given more clarity over the future land policy of the ANC. A much lower cap of not more than 5000 hectare will be introduced and much more agricultural land than the original 30% target will be expropriated. The higher target must also be representative of the composition of the population. These announcements have now cleared any doubts about the land policy of the ANC and the fact that land reform, as a purely political objective, will not take future food security and economic growth for the country. The ANC also made it very clear that it will use land reform as far as possible to stay in power and that it is not prepared to consider any other proposals in this regard.

The fact that the agricultural industry in almost all African countries still makes the biggest contribution to economic growth, it however does not succeed in providing a solution to the suffering of millions of people who are still under and malnourished. Approximately 870 million people in the world today are undernourished while another billion people are malnourished, lacking essential micronutrients. Almost 60% of the malnourished people are actually small subsistence farmers. They are the very same farmers on whom the international community and the big donors rely to feed the millions of under and malnourished people in the world while they themselves struggle to make a living.

It is almost impossible to understand why the international community and the big donors still continue year after year and decade after decade with the same development policy in the African countries, despite it being proved to be unsuccessful, yet expecting different results? The fact that the agricultural industry in almost all these countries still makes the biggest contribution to economic growth is actually a further obstacle to higher industrial development which can create more employment. This obstacle is still the most important reason for the underdeveloped status of these countries.

The generally accepted goals of the government with regard to land redistribution and the development of small black farmers on the one hand and food security on the other hand can never be compatible goals. Mainly because there is no possibility that these small farmers, the same as in Africa, can make a meaningful contribution to food security if they cannot produce food profitably and sustainably. Land reform and redistribution have already caused the downfall of many countries in Africa.

This is a proven fact, mainly because of the small scale of their farming operations, the severe climate conditions, the fact that most of them might not have the interest, experience, entrepreneurship and capital or management skills, which means that they will find it extremely difficult to survive financially. If they further do not received the necessary training and extension services from qualified and experienced agricultural scientists to develop as fully fledged commercial farmers, then there is no doubt that South Africa has taken the wrong road to the longer term sustainable food security for the country. 

This new land reform policy and the development of small farmers which should represent the composition of the population in the country will reduce the number of commercial farmers to such an extent that South Africa will eventually also become dependent on financial and food aid from the international community and big donors. The question that should be ask is to what extent will these developments, together with the government’s vision of agriculture apparently being the only industry that has to create more employment, place South Africa on an irreversible path towards an underdeveloped country?

The only uncertainties which can still exist after these latest announcements last week are firstly how long it will take the government to further reduce the latest cap of 5000 hectare to a much lower level and secondly where does the government expect the funding will come from for the compensation of the farmers land that will be expropriated in a fair and equitable manner.

Fanie Brink

Independent Agricultural Economist

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