Picture: 123RF/LOES KIEBOOM
Picture: 123RF/LOES KIEBOOM

It would be reassuring — in a way — to profess oneself “shocked” at news that the government intends offering for “redistribution” state-owned landholdings that are already being worked successfully by black farmers. (“Farms on Land Reform List Are Already Occupied”, October 25). Unfortunately, with an understanding of the land-reform malaise, one cannot.

Whether the decision to “redistribute” these lands — and so, to evict these farmers — has come about out of incompetence, indifference or vindictiveness, it follows a pattern of land-reform mismanagement. It is also a predictable consequence of keeping “redistributed” land in state hands, and in effect ruling out private, titled ownership for its beneficiaries.

This is government policy. While not much attention was paid to it at the time, when parliament debated the proposal to investigate amending section 25 of the constitution in February 2018 the responsible minister, Gugile Nkwinti, used much of his address to explain why the ANC opposes issuing title deeds.

People who owned land would incur loans and be unable to service them. White landowners would return and the land would be “lost”. Rather, he said, “a progressive revolutionary government ought to then have land and allocate it to people”. By refusing to give title, “we kept the land and we made it available for our people to work it”.

It has also kept land and the fate of many black farmers in the unsteady and unstable hands of the state — the consequences of which are evident in this latest turn of events. This is tragic in its own right.

It is also a warning about the statist inclinations of government land policy.

Those who are concerned about the country’s agrarian economy must acknowledge this and demand a land-reform programme that recognises the importance of property rights and provides a clear path to titled ownership.

Terence Corrigan
Institute of Race Relations

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