The government’s model of land restitution creates problems, admitted Gugile Nkwinti, minister of rural development and land reform, speaking at Agri SA’s congress recently in Muldersdrift, Johannesburg.
“We are losing institutional memory when [farmers] sell their farms and leave it. You find that the beneficiaries get the land, but because they don’t get an income they leave it and go back to the townships. There are [some] lazy people who get land.”
He admitted that the land restitution process at Magoebaskloof in Limpopo “is an embarrassment to government”. The department listed over 500 farms in the Government Gazette, but only six were claimed.
Nkwinti reiterated the objectives for land reform as set out in the Green Paper on Land Reform: That “the deracialisation of the rural economy is critical to the deracialisation of society.” However, Frans Cronjé, deputy chief executive at the South African Institute of Race Relations, disagrees with this objective.
He said the government is trying to direct attention away from its own failures through land reform. “This is an example of a politician creating a scapegoat out of white commercial farmers and blaming them for failed economic development and racial tensions.”
He added that social tensions can be lowered by increasing income and living standards. “This can only be achieved through education, economic growth, and employment which are the foundations of every successful developing economy,” he said.
Speakers at the conference sharply criticised government’s handling of previous legislation affecting farmers.
“You consult with [farmers] and then you go and make plans on your own,” said Jannie de Villiers, general manager of Grain SA.
Nkwinti assured De Villiers that this time around the process will be one of engagement and not only consultation. “We all want a restitution model that works,” he said. – Jaco Visser