New thinking necessary on land reform

2011-11-20 22:00

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.

  • Judith - 2011-11-21 08:31

    A real key here is giving people ownership of communal land or clear rights to it in order to stop the land being sold from under them by chiefs for mining rights. It would also enable them to fund farming operations

  • Bok Fan - 2011-11-21 09:44

    It would be a huge step in this country's development if land issue could be sustainably addressed. But the protection of current individual rights is central to the long term solution.

  • toleranne - 2011-11-21 13:19

    A key to an improved process is the radical jacking-up of the Land Affairs Dept - their inefficiency and mismamagement is the major reason why land reform is in such a mess. About time too that they realise that farming is about food production, which is a mostly commercial & professional pursuit, and not about having a place to live, or some romantic ideal of just having a bit of land because of tradition or for the 'fun' of it.

      toleranne - 2011-11-21 13:34

      ... sorry, 'mismanagement'

  • Churchill - 2011-11-21 13:27

    Now we're talking !! Let's produce more on underutilised communal & STATE land ! Hope he can bring government around to his views though, as it is about time this government stop weeing in it's own breadbasket first thing in the morning, every morning ! Us farmers need government to state openly and unambiguously that they will from this day respect property & tenure rights of commercial farmers and be UNMOVED from this policy. SA has already lost massive investment from within the AGRI community, because of government's hostile 'game' of uncertainty & insecurity - impacting directly upon our country's food security, not to mention the loss of our BEST farmers and us present farming folk actively discouraging our sons to love the land as we do. Prof Karaan is also the right chairman for such a Codesa on land reform. FWIW I've actually met the bloke and sat with him in a forum before. I am a white Afrikaner farmer and us farming folk have always been appreciative of Prof Karaan's practical advice on difficult and contentious issues.

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