De Klerk warns over land reform

2010-06-01 22:39

Cape Town -  Former president FW de Klerk says farmers should expect new proposals for land reform to be tabled sometime this year.

Addressing a meeting of the Cape Agri-Employers Organisation, De Klerk said: "It is clear … that we can expect far-reaching new land reform initiatives later this year," he said. 

He added though that it would be wise "for all those involved to consider that property rights are at the very heart of the negotiated constitutional consensus".

 He told his audience that section 25 makes provision for expropriation in the public interest – which specifically includes land reform.

"However, compensation must either be agreed upon by the affected parties or approved by a court in a manner that reflects an equitable balance between the public interest and interests of the landowner," he said.

"Any attempt to deviate from this principle will have very negative consequences for agriculture; for national unity; and for future foreign and domestic investment in the economy."

Food security

De Klerk pointed out that although land reform enjoyed high priority with the ANC, the great majority of black South Africans did not want to become farmers.

According to a survey by the Centre for Development and Enterprise in 2006, only 9% of black non-farmers have clear aspirations to farm. Only 2% identified rural land as a priority.

"Although less than 6% of agricultural land has been transferred to black South Africans in terms of government schemes, more than 25 million hectares are either owned by the government or are in the former homelands," he said.   

"Private non-recorded land sales might have transferred as much as 7% of agricultural land to black owners. All this land added together is not too far short of the ANC's 30% goal."

The former apartheid era leader observed that food security was a national priority and that it was essential that redistributed land should not result in reductions in food production.

"Successful modern agriculture often requires large farms with high levels of capital, expertise and luck," he said. "Small scale farming does not present a panacea for black development."

By the end of 2009, 29% of redistributed farms had failed and 22% experienced declining productivity. One of the main causes of the failures was the inability of the government to provide the necessary support and assistance.

South Africa urgently needed successful and sustainable land reform, he said, but he insisted that everything we do should be consistent with the letter and spirit of our carefully balanced and negotiated Constitution.

Government departments

"We need a comprehensive land reform audit," De Klerk continued. "How much government land is available for redistribution? How much land has been transferred to black South Africans through normal sales? To what extent has the willing seller, willing buyer principle actually failed?

"We need a rapid and effective approach to granting farmers in the traditional homelands proper freehold or leasehold title to the land that they farm. Urgent steps must be taken to improve the effectiveness of the government departments and institutions involved with land reform.

 "We must not abandon the willing seller, willing buyer principle as the first option for land reform. We cannot afford a situation where South African citizens - simply because of their race - are forced to abandon farms which their families might have developed over generations. "

De Klerk insisted that the country must abandon ideological and racial approaches to land ownership.

 "We need to give very careful to consideration to the implications of minister (Gugile) Nkwinti's statement that all anti-colonial struggles are at the core of repossession of lost land and restoring the centrality of indigenous culture to underscore all nation-building endeavours."

He said his audience should consider the implications of this. "The first is that the anti-colonialist struggle is not over; the second is that white farmers are evidently still regarded either as 'colonialists' – or as the beneficiaries of colonialists; the third is advocacy of the centrality of the indigenous culture.

 "Presumably other cultures will play a peripheral role in the nation that minister Nkwinti is endeavouring to build," he said.

"Such attitudes are entirely irreconcilable with our Constitution and with the need to promote national unity."