COMMENTS BY DAVE STEWARD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE F W DE KLERK FOUNDATION, ON THE FOUNDATION’S RECENTLY PUBLISHED STUDY OF LAND REFORM: CAPE TOWN, 24 MAY 2007
Land reform will continue to be one of the most difficult and volatile questions in the national debate during the coming years.
It was with such considerations in mind that our Foundation decided to publish a study on the latest developments in the convoluted process of land reform. The document was prepared by one of our associates, Ms. Frouwien Bosman, who is a doctoral student at the University of Stellenbosch.
The document includes a summary of the latest information on
- the historical necessity for land reform,
- its constitutional implications,
- progress – or lack of progress – thus far,
- policy shifts and commentary on proposed policy changes.
It also includes recommendations for a sustainable approach to land reform.
The Foundation’s study highlights a number of measures that are currently being considered by the Government to speed up the reform process, some of which were dealt with by Minister Xingwana last week. They include:
- the reconsideration of the “willing buyer, willing seller” approach;
- the utilisation of the State’s constitutional right to the expropriation of land where it is “in the public interest”;
- pro-active state participation in the property market;
- further land tax on agricultural land;
- limitations on foreign land ownership; and
- a “right of first refusal” for the State in the sale of agricultural land.
The key question formulated in the study, is whether the proposed approach to land reform is in step with the socio-economic realities in South Africa and effectively addresses current challenges in the reform process. The study deals inter alia with:
- The capacity and suitability of the agricultural sector to serve as the primary catalyst for socio-economic development and to make further contributions to the state coffers given the sector’s waning contribution to the Gross Domestic Product and the high risks and low levels of profitability associated with agricultural businesses;
- The importance of also addressing the need for land in urban areas;
- The need to strengthen the capacity of the Department of Land Affairs to enable it to carry out its mandate;
- The implications and dangers of deviating from the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle;
- The question of whether land prices are manipulated by owners in an attempt to hamper reform;
- The importance of taking local circumstances into consideration when deal with land transfers, and
- The need to consider the impact of land reform on the levels of commercial agricultural production and food security.
As Minister Lulu Xingwana pointed out in her budget vote speech in parliament last Friday “the issue of land will continue to raise emotions because people are inextricably linked to it, they identify their origins, identity, livelihoods and prosperity to it.” However, this is true of all our farmers from all of our communities: it is true for black farmers; it is true for previously disadvantaged South Africans who would like to become farmers; and it is also true for white farmers – who are also inextricably linked to their land, who for generations have also identified their origins, identity, livelihoods and prosperity” in the land that they have farmed.
Nevertheless, it is equally true that land reform is a constitutional, political, and economic imperative. Most existing farmers accept the need for land reform and are willing to help to ensure that the process benefits all involved, the aspirant farmers, existing farmers and the broad public that relies on our farmer for its daily food. The key to success will be how we deal with land reform: if it is a joint venture in which existing and aspirant farmers work together with one another it has a good chance of achieving success. However, if it is perceived as a process that aligns aspirant farmers against existing farmers, the prospects for success will be very limited.
Undoubtedly, our established agricultural sector can play a crucial role in ensuring the success of land reform. It is for this reason that we have invited Carl Opperman and Annelize Crosby of Agri-SA in the Western Cape to join us today. Annelize will provide us with further information on what Agri-SA is doing to contribute to a successful land reform process – and I would now like to invite her to address us.