South Africa’s skewed land ownership demographics point to a failure of post-apartheid governance, MPs mulling a constitutional amendment to allow expropriation without compensation heard today.
Malcolm Ferguson from consulting firm the In Transition Initiative (ITI) told the Constitutional Review Committee the lack of land continued to relegate black South Africans to “second class citizenship” more than two decades after the end of apartheid.
“It is firmly and widely assigned to governance failure,” he said and went on to urge government to use the 4 323 farms that were the subject of successful land claims, yet are now lying fallow.
He said the state should deal with the fact that it has, through lack of capacity, failed to transfer the land to black farmers.
Ferguson added, however: “It is our view that there is enough blame to go around. The majority of farmers could have done more to share their assets in a manner that they are now beginning to do.”
Fellow ITI presenter Mohammed Bhabha said at the same time it must be acknowledged that many white farmers had shown significant goodwill in helping to get black farming operations off the ground. This included underwriting debt or ceding a controlling stake in their land to workers and has seen R1.2 billion go towards helping black farmers on 50 projects in the Western Cape.
Bhabha and Ferguson argued that it was not necessary to amend the Constitution but that practical solutions must be found to give land and assistance to emerging black farmers.
“The view of ITI is that an amendment is not necessary to achieve these objectives,” Ferguson said.
Bhabha added that the Constitution provided a framework and that crisp legislation and a secondary funding model was necessary to make a success of land reform, which in ITI’s view should be seen as an entirely separate issue to land restitution as it may “clog up” the system.
ITI is headed by former National Party minister Roelf Meyer who helped to negotiate the transition to democracy.
The firm’s presentation stood in sharp contrast to that of the National African Farmers Union who made an emotional call for the nationalisation of all land, a demand also driven by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Nafu president Motsepe Matala broke down as he described the searing poverty of landless South Africans, and said section 25 must be amended to provide clarity on expropriation, adding that the union’s view was based on the Freedom Charter, which in contrast was very clear.
He insisted that land could not be sold because “it is priceless”, but said Nafu’s arguments should not be seen as an attack on white farmers as they were fellow South Africans.
However, he said, the deregulation of the farming sector had to be reviewed as it created a disadvantage for black farmers as they had to “compete with people who have been in the business for years” and had received great support from the apartheid regime.
– African News Agency (ANA)