It is disheartening for some of us who grew up in the countryside to see the agrarian economy shrinking due to farms acquired by the state for land reform standing idle.
What’s happened is that there’s been a duplication of duties in government departments and agencies. For example, we saw the department of agriculture, rural development & land reform buying farms, when that should have been a responsibility of the Land Bank, given its insight and understanding of the agricultural industry. The department was ripped off, as the prices rose for farms earmarked for land reform.
Second, recapitalisation was low-hanging fruit for proxies and officials as public funds were misappropriated.
And nobody wants to take responsibility for administering the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act. So some farms are being unprocedurally or illegally turned into informal settlements, exposing SA to food shortages, underdevelopment and the like.
The land reform process has been an expensive exercise, without tangible benefits. Agrarian communities are short of job opportunities, there is hunger and land degradation, farm infrastructure and immovable assets are dilapidated, some dwellings have been ransacked, and induced disasters are becoming the norm, like the veld fires that burn at any time. This is not how transformation should be.
It reminds me of the rowdy politician who once bellowed: "We did not struggle to be poor." It seems some people had to enrich themselves, by hook or by crook, with no consideration for the aftermath of such misconduct.
But one cannot afford to lose hope — it’s the only thing left after disasters are visited on the countryside. And it would seem country bumpkins like me tend to have loads of hope, despite the magnitude of the adversity.
Sithembiso Malusi Mahlaba
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