South African farms to be nationalised?

South Africa’s department of rural development and land reform is considering declaring productive farmland a “national asset” according to the Beeld newspaper.

Following this, a Sapa story stated:

Land Affairs director-general Thozi Gwanya said the government was not considering nationalisation, and that making land a national asset was just a land reform “option”.

The article points out that “More than 90% of the 5.9 million hectares of land the state bought for emerging farmers was not productive.” If the government hopes to resolve the land reform crisis by grabbing profitable farmland, it is clearly deluded. The failure to ensure a successful, sustainable transfer of farmland to previously disadvantaged farmers points to deep systemic flaws in the implementation of land reform policy.

Clearly the department has neither the capacity nor the ability to achieve meaningful reform. Until it resolves its personnel issues and becomes more efficient at delivering on its mandate, land reform will remain in a paltry state. And whilst initiatives such as the recently suggested land grab might be a way of appearing to do something about the crisis, it will only damage our agricultural sector, scare investors, and most likely cause a decline in our agricultural output.

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