Outrageous, yes, but what other explanation can there be for the spectacular failures over the last twenty years?
Consider the evidence.
More than R26bn has been spent on land reform since 1994. If this amount of money were spent on buying agricultural land following the willing buyer, willing seller principle, the set target of 30% of land transferred would have been exceeded by at least 7% by now.
Many, perhaps even most (there aren’t any reliable statistics) of farms transferred to new black farmers have failed, mostly due to a lack of technical and financial support.
Smallholder farming in the traditional areas where land is still owned communally – some 18m hectares of good agricultural land – is not happening in any real way because government refuses to grant title deeds to small farmers and there is little financial and technical support.
Instead, the ANC has recently set out to strengthen the powers of traditional leaders, and without control over land these leaders have no power.
And President Jacob Zuma has re-appointed the Minister of Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti, despite his department’s colossal failures, and has appointed Senzani Zokwana as the new Minister of Agriculture with disgraced former National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele as his deputy.
Before his appointment, Zokwana was the president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), thus the leader that oversaw the decline and break up of NUM and the birth of the more militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). He is still the national chairperson of the SACP.
Amcu calls Zokwana an “empty jacket” appointed to appease Cosatu and the SACP. The UDM’s Bantu Holomisa says Zokwana didn’t have the “sophistication and knowledge” for the job and was purely rewarded for being a Zuma loyalist.
The EFF’s Julius Malema called him “challenged” and a “walking disaster” who only became a cabinet minister because he famously threatened to march naked for Zuma to protest against the Spear painting by Brett Murray in May 2012.
(City Press revealed last week that Zokwana was paying a worker R800 a week, well below the minimum wage for farmworkers.)
And yet Zuma himself and several of his cabinet and ANC colleagues warned before and after the May election that land reform was a dangerous issue and would be given preference during the so-called Second Transition.
Surely if they meant that, they would have replaced Nkwinti at Land Reform and appointed an experienced minister with a track record of delivery as Minister of Agriculture?
Perhaps the conspiracy theory that the ANC is putting land reform on the backburner to use as a populist tool later is just that, a conspiracy theory.
Perhaps the real explanation for the inertia is simply the same as for other failures of government over the last decade: no vision, weak leadership, policy confusion, a bungling bureaucracy and corruption.