The issue of land reform in South Africa has proven to be quite an emotional topic and not one that is acted upon with any real urgency.
Recently, the ruling African National Congress‘ (ANC) Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti made a policy paper on land reform public, which proposed handing 50 percent of the ownership of farms to the workers who labour on it.
The Democratic Alliance (DA,) who are the official opposition party, have taken the stance, though, that the minister’s proposal is nothing better than a recipe for disaster. “[They] will exacerbate insecurity, destroy jobs, escalate the already catastrophic exodus of farming expertise from the industry, and have dire implications for food security in the medium-term,” DA leader Helen Zille told journalists at Parliament.
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AgriSA, a body that represents the interests of farmers in South Africa, have predictably lambasted the proposal, also making the prediction that the economy would head in the direction of Zimbabwe if land is to be shared.
This body has always been against any kind of reform on the basis that Black people (who are the farm labourers) are not skilled enough to run farms. One wonders who they think have been working all of this land for centuries.
AgriSA have pointed to the fact that an alarming number (between 70 and 90 percent in 2009, depending on the source) of the successful land claims since Apartheid have resulted in failed or failing farms.
As we consider land reform, the following considerations must be made:
a) There will be teething problems. Success is not immediate, as was the case with the colonialists. The situation concerning land redistribution is reported to be improving.
b) White farming was started, developed, and maintained under the hand of substantial government funding with the likes of Land Bank and other supportive structures.
Black farmers are yet to receive similar support.
c) Land is the basis of economics, so in order for Black people to re-enter the economy in an impactful way, there must be redress.
e) White institutions of political and economical power stole land from Black farmers, so there must be redress.
The Freedom Charter, put together by our Apartheid-activist heroes, states that the land shall be owned by those who work it.
Many in the Black community have expressed a sadness surrounding the failure of the ANC to produce much of what was promised by the liberation heroes, yet still, the ANC maintains an overwhelming majority of voter support in any case.
An easy way to put things in to perspective is to ask: Should Black Africans remain pitiable plebs scrounging for breadcrumbs off Master and Neo-Master’s tables in Africa or must there be redress so that they can take their rightful place at the table?
Because with the current situation, with liberal democracy private property is the way the game is played, meaning there is a master (or owner) and slaves (laborers who are often paid well below the minimum wage in South Africa, especially on farms) who are almost always Black.
Liberal democracy requires an impoverished class to serve in stores, restaurants, farms, kitchens, roadsides, behind the wheels of buses, in harnesses outside 25th-story windows. And if we are to work with the balances of power inherited from Apartheid and not change them radically, then every cry will remain Black and everything White will remain privileged.
What a detestable mess.
What is clear is that radical change is needed, and if that does not happen, then these emotional debates and discussions only serve to add to the most-unequal society in the world.