Land reform epic fail due to corruption

January 11, 2023 0 By Cypher9ja



When the ANC came to power in South Africa in 1994, land reform was a priority to address the fact that black farmers had been excluded from the agricultural economy for most of the 20th century.

The aim was to provide disadvantaged people agricultural land to raise their productivity, income and employment. The target was to distribute 30% of agricultural land to black farmers.

Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy

In 2006 the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) was adopted. The acquisition programme involved the government buying farmland previously owned by white farmers and redistributing it to black farmers.

This approach has been mostly ineffective. Failure can be attributed to limited implementation, poor institutional capacity and corruption.

A research report compiled by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) for the department of rural development and land reform and released in 2019 shed light on how the strategy has unfolded.

The main findings were that more than half the current beneficiaries were not reporting any substantial production.

We argue that the data collected and interviews with stakeholders indicate the reasons for failure. They include poor beneficiary selection, inadequate support and infrastructure and rampant crime.

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Agricultural infrastructure needed attention

Post settlement support was inadequate. Agricultural infrastructure needed attention. There is scope for the successful integration of acquired farms into profitable value chains if existing constraints are addressed.

Between 2003 and August 2022, the state acquired 2.9 million hectares of farmland through PLAS. Around R12 billion has been spent on the acquisition.

This land is made up of 2 921 farms under 30-year leases to beneficiaries.

The strategy had clear objectives: -Acquire land of high agricultural potential; -Integrate black farmers into the commercial agricultural sector; -Improve methods of beneficiary selection; -Improve land use planning; and -Ensure optimal productive land use.

Analysis on purchased land

To establish the commercial potential and status of the farms, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform asked the Agricultural Research Council to conduct an analysis of all the purchased land.

Its remit was to: -Determine the agricultural potential of the land; -Establish the performance of the new farmers; -Define criteria for beneficiary selection; -Define criteria for contracting support agencies; and -Establish interventions to help the scheme achieve its objectives.

Assessment results

The assessment showed that land acquired was generally of good or fair quality and 98% had fair to good natural resources. Most farms (59%) were large enough.

Roughly 60% of all the farms had the potential to achieve commercial levels of production. Roughly 10% had the capacity to support only livelihood level production.

Beneficiaries were not evaluated. For land reform success in the future, the importance of selecting beneficiaries with entrepreneurial aptitude, resilience and technical skills will be vital.

The latest resolution on land reform passed by the ANC argues for legislative instruments to manage the state acquisition of land.

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-Johann Kirsten is director of the Bureau for Economic Research, Stellenbosch University; Aart-Jan Verschoor is senior manager, Agrimetrics, Agricultural Research Council; and Colleta Gandidzanwa is researcher, University of Pretoria.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.