That farmer David Rakgase has finally been recognised as the rightful owner of his farm is truly fantastic news in the midst of the doom of the Covid-19 lockdown. Rakgase’s victory is precisely the sort of structural reform we need to pursue in SA.

After an agreement made in 2002, Rakgase has been subject to an 18-year long struggle to own the property that is rightfully his. His fight is similar to that of many black South Africans who want to farm but find that the government will lease farmland to them but will not give them title deeds.

The problem with this policy is that the farmer cannot raise loans to purchase seed and fertiliser for crop farming, or to buy livestock using — as most farmers do — the farm as collateral. They have been blocked by a government rhetorically committed to “land reform” but unwilling to fix the damage of SA’s oppressive, socialist past in practice.

Often we hear the trendy concepts of “structural reform”, “inclusive growth” and “radical economic transformation”. These mean very little if people cannot own property and use that land for farming or another business enterprise. There is nothing positively or beneficially radical about the state owning most or even everyone’s land, having the power to take and give at will, as some envisage with expropriation without compensation.

Structural reform will turn out to be hollow if it doesn’t have the solid base of secure private property rights. We can talk all we want about respect for the individual and ensuring dignity for South Africans, but we have to ensure people can own property, and be secure in the businesses they build and the wealth they create.

Let us take time to celebrate Rakgase’s victory, and focus on bringing about meaningful reforms.

Chris Hattingh 
Free Market Foundation

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