Thursday, November 24, 2016

Southern Africa's land reform

Twenty-two years after the end of apartheid, South Africa is still grappling with land reform. Progress is slow under the current approach to shift land from white back to black people and many are becoming impatient. Land ownership is a contentious issue in South Africa. With the end of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) party promised to right the wrongs of the past by shifting land from white farmers back to the black population who lost most of South Africa's fertile land under colonial rule. But the government is still far from reaching its initial target of redistributing one third of the land by 1999. 90 percent of the farmland that has been redistributed is not productive anymore, meaning that land reform has not been commercially viable.

"We haven't given it enough time," said Professor Nick Vink, chairman of the Agricultural Economics Department at Stellenbosch University. "It's something that's going to be with the country for the next two or three generations."

Left-winger,Julius Malema, renewed his call for blacks to occupy white-owned land. The Economic Freedom Fighters party has won public support with by campaigning against inequality in South Africa and calling for non-violent occupation to redistribute the land.
"They have been living peacefully. They have been swimming in a pool of privilege, they have been enjoying themselves because they always owned or land,” said Malema about South Africa's white, land-owning minority.

Robert Mugabe wanted to use his land reform program to eliminate the traces of colonialism by giving farms to black Zimbabweans. 15 years later the country can no longer feed itself. Some 4,500 white farmers were dispossessed, sometimes forcibly, and a million black Zimbabweans were settled on their land. A number of new medium-sized farms were created but by and large the land was redistributed to small-scale farmers – and to people who had good connections to the Mugabe regime. As a result of the land reform, some 300,000 black farm workers lost their jobs. Like the dispossessed white farm owners, they received no compensation for their losses. With the implementation of the land reform, the government failed to seize the opportunity to abandon traditional hierarchies and give women more of a say in the running of the expropriated farms. Less than 40 percent of land is currently being used productively, he told DW. One reason for this is that no real work is being done on many of the new large farms now in the hands of members of the political elite. Small farmers lack the necessary know-how and do not have enough capital to purchase the equipment they need, seeds, fertilizer or fuel.

Land reform seems to have become a symbol of how deep racial divisions still run in the country.

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