‘Radical decisions’ needed to address inequality – Mabuza

Deputy President David Mabuza.  (Gallo Images)
Deputy President David Mabuza. (Gallo Images)

South Africa’s land reform programme, in its current construct, is hopelessly inadequate to mitigate the negative impact of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, and white farmers were encouraged to donate land.

This was what Deputy President David Mabuza said in Parliament on Thursday in reply to a question on the current land reform processes and efforts to foster social cohesion. 

Mabuza, who was informing members of the National Council of Provinces on various key responsibilities assigned to him as leader of government business, was replying to a question from Mpumalanga ANC member Moses Titus Mhlanga, who asked whether the government had considered the manner in which the land question continued to affect social cohesion, especially in light of the subversive attempts of some groups that continued to seek to manipulate the current land expropriation debate by spreading rumours and instilling fear among some citizens.

“We encourage white commercial farmers to partner with government in implementing different models in order to address the land question, including donating land currently in their hands,” Mabuza said, adding that the government was committed to providing a unified perspective on expropriation of land without disrupting South Africa’s productive capacity and economic growth. 

“We are encouraged by the goodwill of farmers, both black and white, who have expressed their support of this process. They have expressed their unequivocal commitment to working with government and finding practical solutions to the land reform challenges,” he said.

Mabuza spoke about pursuing national unity, peace and reconciliation so as to pave a way for the reconstruction of society.

“Our common desire should be to ensure that all us, including corporate citizens, participate and cooperate in the self-driven reconstruction and development of South Africa.”

Mabuza said there was general acceptance that the goals that were defined when the Constitution was adopted had not been fully realised. 

“Currently, the situation demands of us to act together more than before and to resolve our national challenge of inequality and wealth disparities; which in the main are derived from land dispossession and landlessness,” he said, adding that it was the skewed ownership patterns that should mobilise “all justice-seeking people and equality activists to continue in the building of a united and prosperous South Africa anchored on the values of our Constitution”. 

“The reality is that our land reform programme, in its current construct, remains hopelessly inadequate to mitigate the negative impact of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. This state of affairs continues to be a huge source of frustration and resentment to those who were brutally dispossessed of their land. 

“Our land reform programme must exhaust all available mechanisms to address the past injustices.”

He said the land reform programme has been “very slow and causing a lot of frustration among claimants due to budgetary constraints and a ‘willing buyer-willing seller’ approach. The land reform programme, in its current shape, is clearly unable to meet even the modest and conservative targets that we have set for ourselves.”

The market led mechanism of pursuing land reform has proved to be cumbersome, protracted and inappropriate, he said.

“No political stability, peace and democracy are imaginable as long as the bulk of the land is in the hands of the few. In reality, the positive prospects of our shared destiny are largely dependent on our ability to resolve this land question in a responsible and fair manner.”

Mabuza referred to the “necessary, radical decisions” that had to be made in order to address the current state of inequality. 

“Comprehensive land reform as a means of addressing past injustices that has produced the prevailing triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality, is necessary for our country to move forward as a nation that is united in its diversity. Without this historic redress, we risk having endless social, racial and class frictions.”

The government had established an inter-ministerial committee of land reform that was tasked with providing political oversight on the work being undertaken with regards to implementation of land reform and related anti-poverty interventions on land and agrarian reforms. 

Mabuza, who chaired this committee, said that in the engagement with the agricultural sector, the government had assured farmers “who by the way have come together and agreed to cooperate as different farmer unions” that they would have three representatives in the panel of experts.

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