Give farmers ownership rights - City Press

18 October 2020 - It would be a mistake to see the sad case of Mpumalanga farmers who face losing their land as primarily another corruption story: “Black farmers refuse to pay bribes, kicked off state-owned farms” (City Press, October 11 2020). This case reflects the deep flaws in South Africa’s land reform programme.

Terence Corrigan

It would be a mistake to see the sad case of Mpumalanga farmers who face losing their land as primarily another corruption story: “Black farmers refuse to pay bribes, kicked off state-owned farms” (City Press, October 11 2020). This case reflects the deep flaws in South Africa’s land reform programme.

It has for years been government policy to retain “redistributed” land as state property. When Limpopo farmer David Rakgase took the state to court to demand that it honour an agreement to sell him the state-owned farm he was working, the state’s papers were clear: “[Redistribution rests on the] principle that black farming households and communities may obtain 30-year leases, renewable for a further 20 years, before the state will consider transferring ownership to them.”

Aspirant farmers are reduced to being long-term, if not perpetual, tenants. They are at the mercy of officials who may not have any understanding of farming and, as last week’s article illustrates, those who have no scruples about abusing authority. The cases described in Mpumalanga are matched by more elsewhere.

That some of these farms may now be reallocated as part of a recently announced 700 000-hectare redistribution initiative shows just how deep the land reform malaise is.

Rooting out corruption and incompetence in land bureaucracy is imperative, but it will not be sufficient for a successful programme. Land reform needs to give aspirant farmers proper title to their holdings. This will not only free them from the predations of the state, but also open up avenues of financing and for investment planning. It will also give them the dignity of ownership.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said a new crop of black farmers “must dispel the stereotype that only white farmers are commercially successful in South Africa and that black farmers are perpetually ‘emerging’”.

Without full ownership and recognised property rights, government may prevent many farmers from emerging properly.

Corrigan is project manager at the SA Institute of Race Relations

https://www.news24.com/citypress/voices/give-farmers-ownership-rights-20201018

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