Farmers breathed a collective sigh of relief after President Jacob Zuma formally stated that land expropriation without compensation would not be adopted at the ANC’s national congress to be held at Mangaung in December. Further respite came from agricultural minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson when she said that government can’t undermine the current value of white farmers. She said that although policies employed going forward will alter the way government does things, it will be done in such a way that food security won’t be threatened.
These policies include the discarding of the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle because, as Zuma put it, “it is not working”.
Government claims that up to 87% of South Africa’s agricultural land is still in the hands of white farmers. But judging by available numbers, the land reform process is far from failing in its ability to transfer land to blacks. According to information from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), 95% of the 79 918 land claims lodged since 1994 had been settled by 2011.
Earlier this year, the government said after Zuma’s budget speech it seeks to transfer 24,5 million hectares of white-owned land to black owners. Furthermore, in a study conducted by Prof Johann Kirsten, agricultural economist at the University of Pretoria, SA is very close to reaching the target of distributing 30% of the country’s agricultural land by 2014.
“Based on results of a number of studies on private land transactions and the recent land reform and land restitution
Land expropriation without compensation is officially off the cards. But massive discrepancies exist between government rhetoric and actual land redistribution transfer figures, prompting a reassessment of land reform going forward. Lindi van Rooyen reports.
Closing in on land reform targetnumbers presented by land reform minister Gugile Nkwinti in his budget speech this year, in excess of 25% of formerly white-owned agricultural land is already black-owned. “At the speed of current acquisitions by the state through the Pro-active Land Acquisition Programme, private transactions and the completion of existing redistribution and restitution projects, it is likely that we will reach, if not exceed, the 30% target by 2014,” Kirsten said.
He added that to date the government has redistributed 9,7% of white-owned agricultural land through land reform. But this excludes the monetary compensation chosen by some land claimants, since the DRDLR is still working on translating the amounts paid for financial compensation into hectares. The numbers also exclude a large volume of private transactions where black individuals – including many of the ANC leaders – have bought farm land from white farmers.
These transactions take place without assistance from the state and are therefore not recorded in the land reform statistics.
“In most cases, the land owned by blacks ranges from 15% to 28% of all privately-owned agricultural land in a municipality, to as high as 40% in some cases,’’ Kirsten said. He added that in KwaZulu-Natal it is estimated that privately-owned land makes up only 48,8% of the province.
Of this, 2,4 million hectares of privately-owned land, a total of 957 000ha or 39,8%, is in the hands of black individuals or communities. “If one adds traditional authorities, the Ingonyama Trust area and land owned by the state and its parastatals in KZN, then white-owned land makes up only 24% of land in the province,” he said.
But, he nevertheless congratulated the government for the good progress it was making in transferring land from white to black ownership. Robin Barnsley, Kwanalu’s vice-president, said it was undeniable that government continued to ignore tangible evidence which proved that it is not land transfer that is failing the nation, but rather the manner in which post-transfer developmental and support policies are implemented.