LIKE WATER OFF A DUCK’S BACK!
Deputy Minister of Agriculture Pieter Mulder’s recent declaration in Parliament concerning who owns what land in South Africa stirred up a hornet’s nest, but why wouldn’t it? Most of those who became agitated over his remarks are ideologically at one: confirmation of this fact is the ANC’s Freedom Charter (the land belongs to those who work it) and the current Constitution’s Section 25 – Property – Sub section 4 (a) – “the public interest includes the nation’s commitment to land reform”, and Sub section 8 – “no provision of this section may impede the state from taking legislative and other measures to achieve land, water and related reforms in order to redress the results of past racial discrimination”.
The parliamentary debate was centered on President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address where he decried the fact that the “willing buyer, willing seller” process to acquire land is “not working”.
In addition, the ANC has now proffered a discussion document on “social transformation” which basically mirrors the conclusions of their Green Paper on land reform last year. Ostensibly the government wants to “speed up” what they call land restitution. In basic language, the ANC says that farmers upped their prices which impacted negatively on land reform.
Clearly, this is one ANC endeavour to neutralize Julius Malema’s populist calls to take from the whites what was stolen from the Africans. Land has always been a cause célèbre in Africa –Zimbabwe is an example, and we now learn that the Democratic Republic of Congo has introduced a new law calling for all farms to be “majority-owned” by Congolese. (The DRC has enough cultivable land to cover Germany twice. Only 10% of the land is in use and the country has been a net food importer since the 1960’s – when the colonialists left. The country could feed the whole of Africa, declared a DRC agricultural ministry adviser, yet more than 70% of the country’s inhabitants live in poverty).
Despite these examples and indeed plenty of others in sub-Saharan Africa, the South African government ignores them. Warnings about their suicidal policies are like water off a duck’s back. They are so imbued with the need to preserve their power that even empirical facts are dismissed as “racist ramblings”, while examples of the futility of their schemes are explained away as legacies of colonialism, or any other convenient “ism” at hand!
ZUMA WAS WRONG
In a letter published in Johannesburg’s Business Day (24.2.12), TAU SA General Manager Bennie van Zyl pointed out that Dr. Mulder was right and that President Jacob Zuma, with his whites-own-87%-of-the- land declaration, was wrong. (The SA Development Bank pointed out in 2001 already that whites owned 44% and the State 25% of SA’s land).
Entering the fray shortly afterwards, the SA Institute of Race Relations Dr. Frans Cronje confirmed that indeed the State owned 25%: in the provinces of Gauteng and the Western Cape, the State actually owns 55% of the land. Additionally since 1995, the equivalent of 2,1% of the land has been handed to blacks via land restitution – the total figure thus increases to 27,1%, while more than R5 billion has been paid out to restitution claimants who accepted cash payment instead of having land returned to them. This figure was sufficient to purchase another 2,6 billion hectares and would have pushed the land in black hands up to just on 30%. By 2010, land redistributed to blacks added another 2,5% to their surface area, making a total of 32,5%. This figure is more than double Mr. Zuma’s contention of only 13% in the hands of blacks. There is sufficient anecdotal evidence that land traded in the market between former white and new black landowners could have pushed this figure of black land ownership to between 40% and 50% of South Africa’s land.
But we can be sure that the 13% figure will continue to be trotted out by government and other spokespersons, whatever the facts.
Empirical evidence regarding who can actually produce the food to feed 50 million people in South Africa has been in the public domain for years. TAU SA’s bulletins and press releases over the past ten years have cautioned about government’s policies and their effect on food security. In January 2004, we warned about the dangers inherent in the land expropriation legislation signed into law by the then president Thabo Mbeki. It coincided with the governing party’s pre-election campaign.
The fact that the New York Times and Reuters prominently reported at the time on the SA government’s land policies had little effect on the ruling party. The rand weakened when the news of the land expropriation legislation was made known throughout the world: it lost 39c to the dollar on January 7, 2004, recovering to R6,59 from R6,23. The Bank of America noted that the land issue was increasingly in focus “ahead of the April election”
In January 2005, TAU SA quoted figures regarding the total failure of subsistence farming as a means to improve the future of South Africa. Mr. Kerwin Lebone of the SA Institute of Race Relations pointed out that “of the 1 093 000 farming operations in South Africa in 2000, 86.3% were in the ten former homelands and the balance were in the rest of South Africa. Yet they (the homelands farmers) could not produce any excess food. Farmers in the former homelands consumed 94 pumpkins for every one they sold, while those in the former RSA sold 36 for every one they consumed”.
In 2006, we outlined further numerous farm redistribution failures, the complete lack of capacity of the new farmers, and the concomitant lack of support from government. In 2008, we reported on the increasing disenchantment by heretofore “new South Africa” believers in the ANC’s land policies. A Business Day report at the time outlined the failure of many tropical fruit farms in the verdant Limpopo lowveld. The report described not only the hopelessness of placing inexperienced and unskilled people on productive land, but also the vandalism, destruction, theft and decay that accompanied the process. There was no reaction from the government to these reports!
Our narrative continues, month in and month out, outlining the terrible blight the ANC government has placed on the commercial farming community and South Africa’s future food security. And like water off a duck’s back, the government continues to ignore warnings about and evidence of their folly.
The situation now is tenuous: the government has not only dismissed the warnings but is propagating a policy based on falsehoods and serious disinformation. In the past, the government has simply announced that a farm has a claim against it. In many cases, these claims are spurious. But it is the farmer’s task to defend himself against the claim. He hires an attorney (at his own cost) and enters into a dispute with the government (whose costs are borne by the taxpayer). While this proceeds, the farmer worries whether ploughing any more funds into his farm will be reimbursed in the price he may receive.
These disputes last for years in some instances, and the worn-out farmer then decides to sell. The State’s valuer has already valued the farm and this is the price the government is prepared to pay. In most instances, the farmer accepts because he is tired of the wrangling and what future is there in his farm anyway, under the circumstances? A price is agreed upon, and then the farmer waits – and waits. According to empirical evidence, some farmers have waited for five or six years for their money.
Once a claim is made against a farm, there are few farmers who will increase their price and become involved in years of wrangling. Mostly they take what they can get and leave their farm which in many cases, is not running at optimum production because nothing has been put back into the operation because of the pending claim. No one wins, yet the government still uses spurious arguments to introduce legislation which is tantamount to expropriation. Even more ominous is that government’s new discussion document says the state must ensure that the poor “have access to productive land as a strategy to improve access to physical assets”.
But the past has proved that “the poor” have destroyed productive land, land that became “productive” under white management and ownership. If the government wants “the poor” to have physical assets, why not give them state land?
The answer is clear – “the poor” are unable to make land productive, and we see this throughout Africa. So let’s take the land that someone else made productive, and destroy it. This parasitical mindset is behind the ANC’s Black Economic Empowerment legislation, where those who hold the reins of government are still unable to feed themselves or sustain a way of life for which they hanker. The easiest way out of this is to steal from those who have created the means of self-sustainability!
It’s time consumer groups and the retail food industry engage with the commercial farming sector to form a block to contain the government’s policies, otherwise there will be nothing left to farm, to consume and to retail.