While I support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s stance on land expropriation without compensation, let us not chase away white farmers. Land reform in SA is possible, and could have positive economic effects — such as creating millions of job opportunities for our brothers and sisters in the agricultural sector. However, this will require the government and land beneficiaries to work hand in hand with white commercial farmers to realise the benefits.
Although it gives me no joy reading about the ANC’s many failed examples of land reform policy, this is a reality.
Coming from the rural areas of Limpopo, I have seen land that has been taken away from successful farmers employing locals in their thousands and given back to the rightful owners, leading to significant job losses.
One example of the ANC’s failed land reform policy is the Makgoba Tea Estate (previously known as Sapekoe Tea Estate) near Tzaneen. Before the land reforms, Sapekoe employed about 3,000 workers, but now it features tea bushes that had been left to grow up to 3m high, and the agricultural infrastructure has been stripped and removed from the property.
The government made a block purchase of R104m in 2006 as part of the land restitution programme, benefiting more than 600 families, but there was no plan on how economic activity will be sustained with this reform, causing more harm than good for the greater Tzaneen economy.
Rural development and land reform minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has previously told parliament that, contrary to the narrative of discord, many white South African landowners are happy to approach the government to assist in enriching the land reform discussion in a way that prioritises food security and economic stability.
This narrative should form a big part of the land reform question on how we work together with the current landowners to reverse the decline in the agricultural sector and improve rural employment and income.