Leaked Green Report considered slippery

Leaders in agriculture are treading warily around the final draft copy of the rural development and land reform Green Paper, which was leaked to the media recently.

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Agri SA legal adviser Annelize Crosby said the country’s largest agricultural union wouldn’t be commenting on the content of the leaked paper at all. “We want to debate, but we don’t want the debate to take place in this fashion,” she said. “The document we comment on will be the final document, the official one.”

Opposition leaders and certain well-known academics have been less shy, however. The University of Pretoria’s Prof Johann Kirsten said the content of the leaked Green Paper had not changed the view he and co-authors Johan van Zyl and Hans Binswanger expressed in the 1996 book Agricultural Land Reform in South Africa: Policies, Markets and Mechanisms.

“We remind people that the state is very good at obtaining – or confiscating – land, but very bad at redistributing it,” he said. “This is the lesson across the world over decades. The Green Paper is just another opportunity for the party to plunder the assets of the South African state and its people.“ Land reform as it has been happening has been partly successful, he pointed out, as more than 20% of land has been redistributed.

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But, he added, it’s the cases where activists and the state got involved that were unsuccessful.Lindiwe Mazibuko, the DA’s new shadow minister for rural development and land reform, said her party had hoped that “the government’s policies on rural development and land reform would genuinely seek to uplift the lot of rural people, to address inequality, and to facilitate real opportunities for sustainable development”.

Instead, she noted, “it appears that we will be presented with a rash of draconian interventions whose intention has more to do with seeking political scapegoats for government’s own failures and vesting more and more control in the hands of the state”. The leaked paper contains proposals for centralised state control of land; the creation of a tribunal with powers to subpoena, prosecute and confiscate; limitations on the amount of land individuals can own; and the expropriation of foreign-owned land should “regulations be contravened”.

According to ministerial spokesperson Mtobeli Mxotwa, the document “is still being discussed by the economic cluster, after which it will move to cabinet and then parliament”. He said a release date had not been finalised and added it would be a bad idea to comment on the leaked paper in the meantime.”

Commenting on this will be like buying the fake Nike shoes that come into the country – you will not be using the genuine article,” he said. “The department is concerned about the leak because policy positions need to be discussed internally before they go out for public opinion. “The Green Paper’s taken longer to prepare than we thought exactly because it’s so crucial.”