Letter: Mbete's interview left poor impression - Daily News

28 October 2019 - The recent interview on Al Jazeera by former speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete has drawn considerable attention, much of it negative. Evasive and dismissive replies certainly left a poor impression – given her long-standing prominence in the political firmament, it reflects no credit on South Africa.

The recent interview on Al Jazeera by former speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete has drawn considerable attention, much of it negative. Evasive and dismissive replies certainly left a poor impression – given her long-standing prominence in the political firmament, it reflects no credit on South Africa.

Noteworthy was her response to a question on land reform. When put to her that ‘72% of farmland’ is owned by whites, and that this was a ‘time bomb’, she responded: ‘It is a problem, I agree with you, we must deal with it, we have not been great at it in the past two and a half decades, and we are seized with it right now.’

The figure quoted is incorrect, by government’s own reckoning. The state land audit found that 72% of rural land owned on a registered freehold basis by individuals was in the hands of ‘whites’. But land held on these conditions constituted less than a third of the total. The remainder includes land owned by trusts and companies, state-owned land, land under communal leaders – as well as most land transferred through land reform endeavours. It is incidentally currently government policy to deny ownership to black beneficiaries of land redistribution.

That she failed to correct this and then provided a vacuous, unspecific answer illustrates South Africa’s predicament. Justified on the basis of a very contentious (sometimes false) narrative, the current policy push – for enhanced state power to undertake Expropriation without Compensation (EWC) – offers nothing to address the failings of land reform. Indeed, it distracts attention from the lack of political interest in land reform, inadequate budgets, administrative incompetence and outright corruption.

Rather, EWC has become a major concern for investors and businesspeople, foreign and domestic. It has inflicted damage on the economic prospects of the country and the opportunities of its long-suffering people.

Terence Corrigan, Project Manager

Institute of Race Relations

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