Land reform debate requires rational thought not ideological rhetoric
26 April 2018
In this budget debate on Agriculture and Rural Development I will concentrate on a prominent election issue, namely the “expropriation of property without compensation”.
In his book “Homo Deus”, Yuval Noah Harari indicates that in previous centuries the largest causes of human death was starvation, epidemics and violence.
Harari indicates further that in 2014 about 2,1 billion people were overweight while 850 million suffered from malnutrition. In 2010 obesity related illnesses killed about 3 million people, while 7 697 died in terrorist attacks. He draws another logical conclusion that Coca Cola is more dangerous than al-Qaeda.
But why are these statistics relevant to this debate?
Speaker it is simple. Starvation, epidemics and wars were the result of thousands of years bad decisions based on limited information by past chiefs, kings, princes, presidents, premiers and prime ministers.
We are in a digital century in which information is literally at the fingertips of not only governments, but also those who are being governed. There is no longer an excuse for governments to take short-sighted decisions that can destroy the lives and livelihoods of their own citizens.
Less than a hundred years ago we saw some of the world’s greatest famines in the former Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and Ethiopia. These were self-inflicted famines caused by governments who carried out ideological experiments on their people. In more recent times we have we have seen similar political experiments in Zimbabwe and Venezuela with similar consequences.
Citizens of these countries died because of the poor decisions of their governments.
While the rest of the world is embracing knowledge in the twenty first century, which includes knowledge about failed political experiments from our recent history, the ANC government in South Africa appears to be stuck in a time warp.
History shows us that the ANC-run government are risking the lives and livelihoods of our people in the form of its “expropriation of property without compensation” policy resolutions. History has shown us that this decision poses huge risks on food security and economic stability.
While the rest of the world are dying from over-consumption of food, the ANC wants to take our people back to an era in which people die of starvation and malnutrition.
Speaker, the ANC and the EFF think that agriculture is a way of creating economic opportunities. It can be if the correct beneficiaries are given the right amount of land and then receive the necessary support.
A successful agricultural business, not a farm but a business, requires not only land, but also infrastructure, skills, capital and access to markets. Not only one of two of these, but all of them in equal proportions. It is the farmers who make farms successful, not just a piece of land.
If we want to transform the agricultural sector we need more black farmers, not more failed projects and disappointed urban beneficiaries.
In a document “Farming Facts and Trends: reconnecting South Africa’s food systems to its ecosystems” the World Wildlife Fund – South Africa (WWF-SA) indicate that about 20% of farms supply 80% of all food in the country. While 69% of land in South Africa is estimated to be good for grazing alone, only 13% of land is arable (good for cultivation) and 3% are considered to be high potential agricultural soil.
Contrary to what many people in South Africa might believe, the country is not well-suited for agriculture. A large portion of the country is drought prone and most farms survive as businesses due to the efficient manner in which the land is managed.
This cannot be ignored in discussions concerning the transformation of agricultural land ownership. In their book “How South Africa works”, Herbs and Mills correctly state: “Like any other sectors, those who survive and prosper will be the better farmer, marketer and entrepreneur, improving yields and technology, and inserting themselves into local and global value chains.”
Speaker, we are in the twenty first century in which natural resources and the knowledge to utilise them efficiently to feed a growing urban population are equal partners.
A recent survey by the Institute of Race Relations indicates that job creation, improving education and fighting crime are the top issues among most black South Africans, a mere one percent indicated that land reform should be a priority for government.
If land was a ticket to prosperity in South Africa, why did the overwhelming majority of successful land restitution claimants opt for monetary compensation instead of land?
Politicians are peddling an election driven lie that expropriation of agricultural land will bring prosperity to our people.
This century brings so many opportunities for young people. It is expected that digitilisation will bring an additional 300 million dollars into Africa by 2026. We need our people, especially our young people, to embrace these opportunities.
Let those who know how to produce food in this harsh environment continue to do so, and let us support those who want to enter this market sector.
But it would be nothing less than criminal for our people to be left behind in Africa and the world because our politicians who are meant to lead us into this future information-driven digital world with so many new opportunities are stuck in an era of dead ideology. We should listen to our people and invest in education that will allow our young people to compete in this new age of technology and information.
The DA is very serious about land redistribution in South Africa. We acknowledge the historical and emotional significance of land for many people in our country. Redress for past injustices must be a priority for any government, also for the DA governments in metros, municipalities and the province in which we govern. That is why title deeds is one of the first things issued to individuals under DA-run governments and coalitions.
The DA understands the words of Sol Plaatjie explaining the effect of the 1913 Natives Land Act in his political tract ‘Native Life in South Africa?’ in which he stated: “Awakening on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.”
We must however acknowledge that, while land restitution has been more successful, land reform since 1994 has failed, and continues to fail dismally. The Auditor-General (AG) and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform have revealed in Parliament that the Department has only achieved a dismal 9% of its land reform targets in the third quarter of the 2017/18 financial year.
The land reform process continues to fail due to the lack of political will to deal with rampant corruption and the lack of continuous training and support that has left emerging black farmers to fend for themselves.
Over the past few weeks I have met with beneficiaries of some successful restitution claims, which have become failed land reform projects. Their stories indicate that, while they were victims of past discriminatory laws, they are now victims of current corruption similar to the beneficiaries of the Vrede project.
My interactions with these beneficiaries and hopeful farmers on the ground confirm what was pointed out in the High Level Panel report that the constraints to land reform is not the issue of compensation of land, but rather “increasing evidence of corruption by officials, the diversion of the land reform budget to elites, lack of political will, and lack of training and capacity have proved more serious stumbling blocks to land reform.”
According to an extensive land reform audit conducted in March 2014 by the Western Cape Government, a total of 62% of Land Reform projects driven by the DA government have been successful. This is in stark contrast to the ANC government’s national failure rate of 90% for land reform projects. In the Western Cape we leverage approximately R80 million per annum from the private sector to support emerging farms, especially black female farmers.
In the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recently, the Land Bank told Parliament that they want the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) to release farms under their custodianship to black emerging farmers on a “free title ownership” basis. In its presentation to the committee, the Land Bank raised the issue of emerging farmers not having enough collateral due to historical disadvantage in terms of dispossession and a lack of ownership.
The DA is of the view that the ANC’s land reform programme of nationalisation and state custodianship is doomed to fail as it will ensure that black people will never have permanent ownership of land. Furthermore it will unnecessarily take our country back to a century of famines, conflict and famine related pestilences and deprivation.
The whole issue of expropriation without compensation is an attempt, just before an election, to hide decades of mismanagement of billions of Rands meant to empower black people through land reform in South Africa.
While the DA fights to ensure that the land redistribution process benefits victims of past discrimination through ownership and empowerment that allows families to inherit the property of beneficiaries of land reform and urban housing developments, the EFF and ANC want the state to own the property of everyone so that our people will be enslaved by politicians and their cronies such as the Guptas.
Speaker, it is sad to see how politicians will put their personal interests to be re-elected in 2019 above the interests of our country and people. On the far left and far right of our political spectrum we have politicians and other individuals whose political survival depends on sowing hatred and abusing the historical fears of our diverse nation.
We trust our people’s ability to determine what is best for themselves in a century in which access to knowledge outweighs access to other resources, instead of being told what is best for them by politicians who think they own voters.
We trust our people’s ability to distinguish between the voices of reason and those who would lead them into a Zimbabwe scenario.
We trust our people’s ability to follow the path that we chose in 1994 to talk about how best we can balance redress for the victims of past discrimination with the need for economic development and food security within the framework of the rule of law and justice.
We trust that our people will vote for real change in 2019.
Issued Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature, 26 April 2018