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In the land debate, 4% has become an abused number. In the past week, referring to the government’s audit of private land ownership, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane both stated that only 4% of commercial farmland is in black hands, evidence of the huge failure of land reform over the past two decades. But the government’s land audit is possibly the least accurate and least helpful document on transformation published yet. That 4% is a stab in the dark is immediately obvious. The report states at the outset that companies, trusts and community-based ownership were excluded from the count. This excludes 61% of all privately owned agricultural land. It also excludes from the count most land that has been transferred through reform projects. In early land reform, the settlement/land acquisition grant introduced in 1996 was R16,000 a household head, the equivalent of the housing grant paid to those in cities. As this was not...

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