SOUTH AFRICA cannot afford to make the same mistakes as Zimbabwe and Namibia when carrying out land expropriation without compensation.
This is the view of a panel of experts at the National Maize Producers’ Organisation [NAMPO] Harvest Day, who argued that special attention must be given to the awarding of title deeds, and warned of illegal land invasions that may take place in the process.
The panel formed part of the first dialogue in a series this week at the “Nation In Conversation” sittings being hosted at NAMPO Harvest Day.
Zimbabwean politician Simba Makoni described the process of land acquisitions that took place in his country.
“The first point to make is that we didn’t have land reform; we had land acquisition and passing it on… The key challenge to agrarian reform is not just acquiring and passing the land; it’s what you do with it when you get it. Government and farmers reacted to the invaders. Nobody planned for it. It is important for us to be proactive. Many people reacted in panic. And when you react in panic, you react negatively — and that became the hallmark of the land-reform exercise in Zimbabwe,” Makoni said.
“We are in a situation where somebody sits there, they are called government, and they will give to us what they think is good for us. We need to be genuinely engaged with each other. Secondly, and more importantly, what we agree on out of this conversation, we [must] do and do effectively and timeously. The uncertainty that I would add is: are we engaged together honestly to a common good?”
Raphael Karuaihe, head of commodities at the JSE, said politicians are developing their rules of engagement, but he wouldn’t like to see that happening in a vacuum.
“You have to understand the needs of the farmer on the ground. [It must be] a combination of acknowledging the fact that there are certain issues we need to address like land reform, but addressing this without rocking the boat and seeing that it is a win-win for everyone,” he said.
“In Namibia… at the dawn of democracy, government adopted a willing-buyer, willing-seller approach. It went like that for quite a while… But we realised that a large portion of land still remained in the hands of the previous owners.”
He said policy was then introduced that gave government the first right of refusal.
“If a commercial farm was for sale, government would be the first buyer — unless they give clearance that they don’t want to buy it, when it will go to the open market. But the title of that new land remained with government… The unfortunate thing being that those given that portion of land are currently nonfunctional. Land was transferred, what then? Unless we address that next phase, it is a futile exercise.”