Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

The contributions by Wandile Sihlobo and Johann Kirsten (“This is how rural areas can be developed through agriculture”, July 19) and Andile Ntingi (“After 22 years, state still has not upgraded land rights in former homelands”, July 20) present some excellent, commonsense critiques of the state of SA’s rural economies, along with pragmatic ideas to address them.

Correctly, Sihlobo and Kirsten highlight the need for investment in infrastructure, in better policy and in improved governance; Ntingi points to the failure to provide secure, titled tenure to millions of households in the country, which imperils their landholdings and is a major hindrance to their benefiting from opportunities in the agricultural economy.

These are problems that need to be addressed if the country’s land politics is to be productively resolved and rural development achieved — even if there are legitimate differences of opinion as to how this should be done.

As long as land policy is seen through ideological and political lenses, this is unlikely. The ANC and the government it leads have gone to extraordinary lengths to advance the idea of expropriation without compensation, even up to demanding the first amendment to the bill of rights. Yet virtually no evidence has been put forward that compensation requirements, or the constitutional protection of property rights, has compromised land reform.

On the contrary, the fixations with expropriation without compensation and state control (we have warned that the ultimate goal may well be nationalisation of land, on the model of water or mineral rights) have themselves compromised sensible and workable land reform.

Unfortunately, pragmatic solutions will be delayed until the ideological drivers of current policy are rejected. 

Terence Corrigan 
Institute of Race Relations

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