According to a report in Afrikaans weekly Rapport, the new approach to the controversial project of land reform in South Africa has been failing, and government is so concerned about new research findings that it allegedly tried to prevent the researchers from continuing with their work.
In a front-page article dealing with the work of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (Plaas), it was alleged that the expensive land reform programme has been resulting in farm workers losing their jobs and even their rights to accommodation.
The state’s programme of acquiring land for redistribution is allegedly also contributing in other ways to the increase of poverty in rural areas.
Plaas and international researchers have been doing the research for the Western Cape government and their findings have hitherto not been published. Rapport alleges that the “government was so upset about the damning findings that researchers were in the interim denied access to more farms and state data”.
As a result, researchers from the University of Toronto in Canada decided to make their findings public.
More than R2 billion is invested by government each year into land reform and redistribution. Since 2011, the land has remained state-owned and is redistributed through hire arrangements, but this approach appears to be creating problems
The first round of research looked at 11 farms in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape. On three of the farms, workers were allegedly left without refuge.
On another farm, people who had been living on the land for generations were being made to pay hire to the state and had lost their income as labourers.
On another livestock farm, long-term contracts had still not been established despite three families being established on the land.
On at least one state-owned chicory farm being partly run by the University of Fort Hare – as well as several others – workers were being paid less than minimum wage.
Researcher Dr Ruth Hall was quoted as saying that although good intentions were being shown, the state would have to improve its capacity to manage land if it wished to continue with its current approach. She said that the rhetoric of “radical land reform” was being chanted while the state did not have the ability to administer agricultural land.
“This land reform is being done for people other than the poor,” she was quoted as saying.
“Each of these problems can be solved.” She charged that proper accountability and oversight were not being ensured to ensure effectiveness.
The department of rural development declined to comment to Rapport.