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New thinking necessary on land reform

Nov 20 2011 22:00
Hennie Duvenhage
Cape Town – A Codesa on land reform is an increasing possibility as more and more influential people realise that the current process will not have the desired outcome and that it can harm country if not reconsidered.

Professor Mohammad Karaan, a member of the National Planning Commission (NPC), aligns himself with people like Professor Shadrack Gutto, who chairs Unisa’s Centre for African Renaissance Studies, and who also believes that land reform needs to be renegotiated.

Last week Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti told the Black Management Forum annual general meeting that land could no longer be allocated in the current fashion.

He said that in future government wanted to allocate land in the land reform process to black commercial farmers, since agriculture is regarded as an enterprise.

In a wide-ranging discussion with Sake24 on progress towards unity in agriculture, now that all interested parties have agreed to establish an agricultural forum, Karaan said that a land Codesa should be held, but it should not end up merely covering all the old familiar points of dispute.

Karaan is the dean of the agricultural faculty at Stellenbosch University.

Land reform policy should be judged not solely on its ability to transfer land, but also on the ability to use the land sustainably and create investor confidence. The policy needs to be fundamentally revisited. New thinking is required, as well as taking into account the country’s broader objectives.

The land reform green paper doing the rounds does not offer adequate answers to fundamental issues. According to Karaan, what is required is a realisation that the road ahead for new entrants to commercial agriculture will be difficult for those wishing to go it alone.

An integrated effort is necessary, engaging support bases and a knowledge of existing industries.

“The commercial sector will have to play a significant role and it can work only if made worthwhile,” he said.

It can work only if it inspires investor confidence. There's no point in doing something to upset the land market, or something which will violate any of the constitutional requirements – such as right of tenure.

He said the second big issue is that land ownership is being discussed, but no one is talking about communal land.

As matters currently stand, investments in such land are discouraged, while it is precisely this type of land that has the potential to boost production.

Karaan said he believed traditional authorities would like to see the land being used productively.

Although the land reform green paper avoids this issue, courage to bring about the necessary changes is in the country’s interests.
npc  |  land reform  |  national development plan



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