LETTER: Is land needed, or jobs?
The assumption is that land equals wealth, but my neighbours are selling their big houses as fast as they can and farmers are moving off their land
If anyone needs reminding that the question of land redistribution in SA is complicated, they need only read Prof Johann Kirsten’s article (“Practical steps towards a radical but sustainable redistribution of land”, August 7).
Among the mass of information (and this is only part one) there are a few interesting excerpts. In the first bullet point he notes that “the failure of the state to bring about effective land reform over the last 25 years due to … poor systems … meddling … price manipulation … corruption”. Later he mentions “identifying state land” and “conducting a land audit” as desirable.
A layman might paraphrase this as: the ANC has displayed incompetence and corruption in this matter to the point where it does not know what land the state owns and is unlikely to find out.
Kirsten later quotes a government report as saying the process of redistribution should be “state incentivised but private sector delivered”. Is this another admission that the state doesn’t know what it is doing and must rely on private landowners to do it?
Leaving the minutia of the debate aside for the moment, has anyone asked if land is really the answer to the fundamental problem, which is of course poverty? The poverty of millions who have few skills and no resources. The assumption is that land equals wealth. If that is so why are my suburban neighbours selling their big houses as fast as they can and moving into condos? The answer is because they can’t afford to live there anymore. The asset has become a liability.
Why are farmers moving off their land? Because they can’t make it pay. The very idea therefore that land will relieve poverty may be a fallacy, a giant red herring of politically correct proportions. I suggest that 90% of people who say they need land actually need a decent paying job. That’s a whole different ball game to land reform, and one the state is just as unlikely to deliver on any time soon.