Land earmarked for redistribution mostly ends up in the hands of state bureaucrats and the politically powerful – as in Zimbabwe, a report says.
History could be repeating itself as South Africa’s land redistribution heads down the same road as Zimbabwe – where it was the politically connected elite who benefited from land taken from white farmers.
Land redistribution in South Africa is in deep trouble, with a large proportion of beneficiaries being the financial and politically connected elite, a report released by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (Plaas) has shown.
This is what happened in Zimbabwe in the wake of seizures of land from white farmers, which began in 2000. Many of the farms taken ended up in the hands of loyalists of Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party … and many were run into the ground.
Authored by Farai Mtero, Nkanyiso Gumede and Katlego Ramantsima, the Plaas investigation covered 62 State Land Lease and Disposal Policy (SLLDP) projects spread over seven sites in the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Western Cape.
“Some farms had ‘dropped out’ of production (10%) while others were struggling and merely ‘hanging in’ (16%). There is a proportion of SLLDP farms that were ‘accumulating through re-investment’ of farming proceeds (19%),” the report noted.
“Nearly half of the 62 farms (44%) were allocated to wealthy beneficiaries diversifying into farming by ‘stepping in’ with their resources. In some cases, accumulation was a result of privileged access to recapitalisation and production support (11%).”
The study also revealed women were disproportionally affected with 81% of the farms allocated to men, with a large proportion of them being “urban-based businessmen, traders and rural transport operators with significant investments outside of farming”.
“Only 18% of the farms were allocated to farm workers,” the report stated. “In contrast, 82% of the farms were allocated to other types of beneficiaries especially those with economic and political influence.”
The land expropriation furore reached a crescendo this year with the ANC resolving to continue working to amend the Constitution to “address the original sin of land dispossession and landlessness in South Africa”, according to ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu.
In a savagely ironic Orwellian twist, the report revealed ownership of some of the farms was retained by government and leased to beneficiaries on a 30-year lease, ignoring the tradition of parent handing land to child.
At least R428 million was spent on buying 40 of the farms (those for which data on the purchase price was available).
Of that amount, R196 million (or 46%) was spent on purchasing farms which did not have valid leases at the time of the research.
“Significant resources have been used to purchase land where the state has not issued any leases, as required by policy,” Plaas stated.
“These farms have thus not actually been legally redistributed, in the sense that property rights to them have not been transferred, since the intended beneficiaries have no secure land rights or leases to confirm their occupation of the land.”
The report noted State bureaucrats and the politically powerful “often capture resources in land reform through the following practices: the soliciting and payment of bribes, ‘double-dipping’, fronting, the imposition of politically-connected beneficiaries and bailing out politically-connected people”.
“State bureaucrats have, in some cases, withheld leases and threatened non-compliant beneficiaries with eviction,” stated the report.
And while the above is only a precis of the first eight pages of the 87-page report, parliament’s Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation Amending Section 25 of the Constitution is pressing ahead.
“Due to the festive season, the committee agreed that the Bill will be published a second time early in January 2020 for public comment after which the public will have about a further three weeks for input,” said committee chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga in a statement yesterday.
The report noted it would be subsistence farmers who would be left by the wayside, a direct contradiction to the idea of land reform.
“Overall, the policy biases of SLLDP which favour the large-scale commercial farming model and by implication beneficiaries with sufficient resources to sustain this type of farming, is inevitably exclusionary towards farmworkers,” it stated.
“On the key question of who has been benefiting from South Africa’s land redistribution, it is clear that farmworkers are among the peripheralised social groups, alongside women and the youth.”
Read the full report here:
PLAAS RR 55 Elite Capture Web by Carina Koen on Scribd
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