Aug 10, 2012
Forceful land acquisitions not in SA’s future if government increases efficiencyBack
Agriculture|Engineering|Expertise|Natal|Africa|Defence|SECURITY|System|Training|Water|Africa|South Africa|Zimbabwe|Institute Of Poverty|Equipment|Food|Food Security|Maintenance|Services|Eastern Cape|Ben Cousins|Gugile Nkwinti|Water|Eastern Cape
© Reuse this
Further, he notes that, of the land that has been transferred, some has not previously been used to produce food.
“Given that there is massive concentration in the farming sector – the top 25% of farmers produce 75% of South Africa’s produce – government could easily achieve its land reform target without negatively influencing commercial production in any way,” says Cousins.
Government wants to transfer 30% of the estimated 82-million hectares of agricultural land that is owned by white commercial farmers to black farmers by 2014. The transferred land will represent 24.5-million hectares.
To date, government has redistributed nearly 8% of the 30% targeted white-owned land and resolved 90% of urban restitution claims through cash compensation.
Land restitution, unlike redistribution is rights-based. Around 3 000 rural land claims, which government would like to resolve through restoration of land and not cash compensation, are still to be settled.
“In my opinion, the 30% target was purely arbitrary. There is no reason why it shouldn’t be 50% or 70% over the longer term. There is also no reason why the agriculture sector cannot stay productive in the face of land reform,” Cousins stresses.
He adds that land reform has, to date, had a minimal impact on the agriculture sector, but acknowledges that it has created uncertainty among commercial farmers about the future.
“Currently, land is being leased to land reform beneficiaries on short-term leases, instead of being transferred in ownership, which means these farmers do not have long-term security.”
He adds that the African National Congress Youth League’s (ANCYL’s) call on government to amend the country’s Constitution and not compensate farmers for land has caused insecurity and uncertainty.
Forceful Land Acquisitions
“I think forceful land acquisition is highly unlikely in South Africa,” he states.
However, he notes that a major contributor to the uncertainty, which he attributes to the emotional responses from farmers and the ANCYL with regard to land reform, is that government does not communicate clearly to the public.
“Government likes to make farmers the scapegoats so they can blame them for the failure of land reform,” says Cousins.
He adds that current public arguments are not about land, but symbolise other issues. “People’s reactions are based on emotion. Not much of the public debate is actually about how to carry out effective land reform.”
Nevertheless, Cousins emphasises that if government keeps moving at its current slow pace, populist politicians might use the situation as an excuse for urging a confiscatory land reform system, similar to that which happened in Zimbabwe.
“I think it is highly unlikely at the moment, but it could become a reality in future; however, I doubt that land occupations similar to the scale on which they have taken place in Zimbabwe, would ever take place in South Africa,” he states.
Government is reviewing its land reform policy and, last year, released a draft Green Paper on Land Reform.
Cousins states that not much clarity has, to date, emerged about the final version of the green paper. “The policy review has been a long-winded process.
“Why the policy process has been so slow is not clear, but it seems like inefficiency by government. Why the land reform process has been so slow is another question,” he states.
The biggest hurdle to land redistribution has been the slow and cumbersome buying of land through the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ approach. The alternative is proactive land acquisition in areas of both need and opportunity.
“Government has not been an efficient buyer of land, as the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform does not have adequate negotiation skills and is hampered by budget constraints. Government has a small budget for land reform – never more than 1% of its national budget has been allocated for this purpose,” says Cousins.
He stresses that land reform could contribute towards poverty reduction in South Africa. “Even if land reform beneficiaries use the land to produce food only for themselves, it will make a contribution towards alleviating poverty, as food security will be established.”
However, to truly address the roots of rural poverty, agricultural production will have to involve people producing both for the market and for themselves.
Areas where proactive acquisition and concentrated land-buying have worked well include Elliot, in the Eastern Cape, and Besters, in KwaZulu-Natal, where the proportion of farmland transferred quickly reached 20% to 30% of the total in those areas, says Cousins.
He says that, unfortunately, land transfers in these cases, and others, have not been matched by effective support services – a key component of effective land reform.
This is another key issue not adequately addressed in the African National Congress’s land-reform proposals, he points out.
In 2010, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti reported that 90% of the redistributed farmland was failing to produce food and that government might be forced to repossess the properties if that continued.
Plaas researchers, however, disagree with the Minister’s statement, estimating that only on 50% of redistributed farms there is little production taking place.
The institute admits that although a 50% failure rate is high, it is much less than what government claims.
Plaas states there has been public criticism about what many believe to be the failure of the land reform system.
Government has, therefore, through its recapitalisation and development programme, decided to assist the beneficiaries of redistributed land in keeping it productive.
He stresses that, for proactive acquisition and concentrated land acquisition to work, three enabling conditions are required. The first is the need to equip government officials with the requisite skills and expertise, not only for canny land buying but also for effective spatial planning and agriculture support services.
The second is a budget large enough to transfer land on a significant scale, as well as support its new owners in establishing productive enterprises. Quadrupling the land reform budget, perhaps at the expense of defence, is imminently affordable, he states.
The third – and crucial – condition is sufficient political will to implement large-scale land redistribution.
To ensure land reform’s sustainability, this would have to be a component of and contribute to a wider agrarian reform strategy, which radically reconfigures the highly skewed agrarian structure inherited from apartheid and creates market opportunities for new emerging farmers.
Tenure reform aims to strengthen the rights of people whose land tenure is insecure as a result of discriminatory laws and practices in the past. They include farm workers, labour tenants and rural households living on privately-owned land, as well as people living in the former homelands under the authority of traditional chiefs, he explains.
“Little progress has been made with the tenure reform programme; in fact, farm workers are continually evicted despite government laws and policies. Therefore, this programme must be deemed a failure,” he states.
Engineering Sector Involvement
He adds that the sector can help these beneficiaries by downscaling technology and providing training. More affordable equipment is also needed.
“The shortage of capital to invest in farming hampers successful land reform, which is why bigger machines and larger-scale technology are not necessarily appropriate.
“The available technology is often out of reach for land-reform beneficiaries,” says Cousins.
Training courses about tractor repair and maintenance, equipment repair and maintenance, as well as how to use and repair knapsack sprayers, are desperately needed to assist land reform beneficiaries in cultivating produce and contributing to production in South Africa.
In addition, land reform beneficiaries need support services to gain access to water and irrigation.
“Credit and finance is also an issue and new farmers need to be educated about where the opportunities in the agricultural sector are,” says Cousins.
Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Agricultural Engineering News
Technology supplier SKF South Africa displayed its agricultural solutions for the first time at its own stand at this year’s Nampo agricultural trade show, which was held in Bothaville, in the Free State, from May 13 to 16. SKF agriculture key accounts manager Charl...
Global construction equipment and compact machinery manufacturer Wacker Neuson plans to further expand its stand at next year’s Nampo agricultural trade show, which will be located in the middle of the new expanded area, close to the southern gate. Wacker Neuson was...
Sustainable agriculture company Syngenta’s Africa Middle East Seedcare Institute, in Brits, focuses on new application technology, ensuring that seed treatments provide an effective way of placing crop protection products directly onto the seeds, Syngenta seed care...
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2015: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2015 report provides an overview of the key developments in the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon...
Projects in Progress 2015 - First Edition (PDF Report)
In fact, this edition of Creamer Media’s Projects in Progress 2015 supplement tracks developments taking place under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has had four bidding rounds. It appears to remain a shining light on the...
Electricity 2015: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2015 report provides an overview of State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, as well as electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
This Week's Magazine
Today’s organisations execute projects within increasingly complex environments – particularly in the engineering sector. The ability to successfully execute these projects is what drives the realisation of successful projects and, ultimately, the achievement of...
South Africa’s distribution grid is a twentieth-century relic, which must be changed to serve the country’s modern electricity needs, says South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) Smart Grid Programme manager Dr Minnesh Bipath. “What we are...
There is a disparity in government funding provided to integrated transport networks – bus rapid transit (BRT) networks ¬¬– and that given to conventional bus services, says Putco executive director Thys Heyns. “We have neglected and strangled conventional bus...
The Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco) is building 502 rental housing units, valued at R200-million, in Dobsonville, Soweto, which are scheduled for completion in June 2016.
Automotive component manufacturer and distributor Metair is centralising its research and development (R&D) work in Turkey, in an attempt to bolster the company’s ability to produce affordable start/stop batteries. The new R&D centre is part of an expansion plan in...
Next ArticleGlobal warming could benefit potato industry