Goodwill on both sides needed to resolve land issue

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(iStock)
(iStock)

In my book called Flagwatching which was published in 2015, I wrote about the critical impact that future land ownership would have on the socio-economic prospects for our country.

This is what I said:

"The final flag, despite being cloudy and uncertain, has aspects of a clock about it because it is a ticking time bomb. It is an inflammatory flag. It is the only flag that, in a worst case scenario, can ignite a civil war.

It should be recalled that the Boers were winning the war in 1900 against the greatest imperial power at the time, Great Britain.

Then along came Lord Herbert Kitchener who was utterly ruthless and implemented a strategy to make the Boer commandos surrender: the burning of their farms and the introduction of concentration camps in which over 26 000 women and children died.

Concentration camps were a British, not a German invention. In this regard, I am disgusted by the country of my birth.

The idea that a forceful seizure of the agricultural land will follow the Zimbabwean pattern and merely displace the current owners vastly underestimates their resolve to stay put. Equally, the idea that the status quo is sustainable is absurd. There has to be more equitable distribution of land between blacks and whites.

The other issue that cannot be sidestepped is food security. Of the 122 million hectares that constitute the total area of South Africa, only 16.6 million hectares are considered arable, which means land that is suitable for dryland crop production without irrigation. That is 13.6%.

Thus, the proposal that much of the land can be redistributed by dividing it up into smaller farms (or even subsistence units) ignores the fact that a farming region like the Karoo can only take a limited number of animals per hectare. Putting more animals on the land will simply destroy it.

So the best case scenario for this flag is a mixture of dividing up the land where it can be done and collective ownership where it can’t. Overarching any change is the need for financial and technical support for new black commercial farmers.

Such a formidable problem can only be resolved with goodwill on both sides and some form of ‘Agridesa’ to negotiate a solution, similar to the Codesa negotiations of the early 1990s.

The current approach of one side putting up unilateral proposals for reforming land ownership and the other side defending the status quo at all costs is a dangerous non-starter."

We now have five months to negotiate a sensible solution.

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