The recent statement by the Rural Development and Land Reform director–general Thozi Gwanya, that land might be declared a national asset, has provoked mixed reactions.
Gwanya addressed a meeting with AgriSA this week to discuss his department proposals to change the country’s land ownership system. The plan is to speed up land reforms by amending the Constitution to turn productive land into a national asset leased to farmers. The director of the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA), John Aitchison, said the move has been seen by others as being against the constitutional right of all citizens who own land.
“So far, of the 30% of agricultural land that government had scheduled for transfer to those previously discriminated against, only about a fifth has been dealt with, and current reports are that mostof this farming land is now less productive than it was.
“Clearly the situation is unsatisfactory, both in terms of a fair and just society in which land is more fairly distributed amongst the population, and in terms of agricultural productivity in a world in which food security is a growing concern,” Aitchison said in a statement.
He said a state nationalization of land would seem counter-intuitive in South Africa, where current bureaucracies have been characterized by gross inefficiencies, corruption and failures to deliver.
The South African state has, for example, significantly faled so far to document what state land it already owns.
“AFRA, therefore, would like whatever ideas government has about land ownership and use to be clearly set forth and publicly interrogated,” said the statement. AgriSA spokesman Theo de Jager said similar suggestions made in the past have never been realized, and such suggestions have instead driven investors into a state of nervousness.