Monday, July 08, 2013

(THE ECONOMIST) Land reform in South Africa
Seeds of change

Jun 20th 2013, 17:25 by E.C.S. | JOHANNESBURG

COMMENT - The reason that despite international sanctions the Zimbabwean land reform was successful and struck a chord among the people, is that, by necessity, it was not centrally organized or conceived. The people filled in their own needs, which resulted in a hugely diversified agriculture, as it should be. Ironically, it is the organisation of land reform in South Africa, that forces local people to adapt to the preconceived notions of what land reform should look like, that has made the Willing Buyer Willing Seller program fail. Read more about land reform in Zimbabwe on Prof. Ian Scoones' blog, Zimbabweland. Just to add, Sol. T. Plaatje wrote a live account of the Siege of Mafeking during the second Boer War, "The Boer War Diary Of Sol. T. Plaatje - An African at Mafeking". - MrK

“AWAKENING on Friday morning, June 20th, 1913,” wrote Sol Plaatje, a black, Setswana-speaking intellectual and activist, “the South African Native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.” Mr Plaatje was writing in response to the Natives Land Act, the first major piece of legislated racial segregation. Under the Act, South Africa’s black majority was excluded from land ownership in favour of the white minority; just 7% of agricultural land was set aside for blacks, though they comprised nearly 70% of the population. Among the manifold consequences, the law destroyed traditional farming, effectively forcing blacks into overcrowded reserves and into migrant labour on mines and white farms.

A century later, the unequal distribution of land in South Africa remains a fraught and messy issue. The 100th anniversary of the Act has become a big political event, marked by all parties.

The African National Congress (ANC) government’s gentle land reform measure—often called “willing seller, willing buyer”—has been frustratingly slow and ineffective. Only a small amount of land has changed hands since 1994. By the government’s own account, at least 50% of land reform projects have failed. With an election due next year, and the Natives Land Act centennial highlighting the continuing inequalities, the ANC is under renewed pressure to accelerate reform by taking a tougher approach. Land remains a hot issue within the party, and a major source of resentment and complaint.

The process of re-opening land claims related to the Act and other racially based laws may soon begin again, under a bill that would extend the deadline for lodging land restitution claims from December 1998 to December 2018.

All of this is a complicated business. South Africa has to be careful not to undermine its successful commercial farming sector—some white farmers have already upped and left. The bogeyman is Zimbabwe and its violent land invasions, though South Africa’s situation is altogether different. There will be no simple fix to the dispossession that began a century ago. But it is something South Africa must deal with in order to move forward.

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