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OPINION | Truth was refreshing now lets get land issue right

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane
Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane
Image: Werner Hills

Premier Oscar Mabuyane admitted earlier this week that land is lying fallow in almost all the farms that government distributed. This, he correctly observes, is because land was given to wrong people.  Land is an emotive subject. It goes to the core of our existence not only because of it being a means of production but for us in SA it also invokes the legacy of dispossession.

In their quest to redress the historical imbalances, the post-colonial states have sadly stumbled. It is therefore refreshing to hear the province’s first citizen confirming what is in the public domain — that those who really want to work the land have not been given an opportunity. Conversely, speculators were first in the queue for the farm beneficiary programme and subsequently turned the land into “braai zones”.

Mabuyane’s statement came barely hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ruling party would adopt more stringent criteria for cadre deployment. Right people with right qualifications would be appointed to government positions in an effort to create a capable state.

Could this be a week of confessions, or have our leaders decided to draw a line in the sand?  We certainly hope for the latter because similar speeches have been made before. What normally follows are a series of experiments with policies while the country slowly drifts towards the cliff.  

Land reform has been the subject of passionate debate and controversy. In the case of land restitution in SA, there have been numerous complaints from claimants, who express their frustrations with the slowness of the process. And for those who finally get the money, the way it’s spent is left to individuals, hence most beneficiaries remain stuck in poverty. For those who benefit from land redistribution, there isn’t enough monitoring so some turn their pieces of land to recreational facilities.

The government must become more serious in addressing this emotive issue and we hope, Mr Premier, your colleagues in the ruling party are listening. What we have witnessed over the years is the skirting over the land question.  Currently a parliamentary committee led by Mathole Motshekga is seized with processes of amending section 25 which would allow for expropriation of land without compensation. In 2017 former president Kgalema Motlanthe led a high level panel on land, criss-crossing the country to gather information on how land reform could be carried out. This is more or less going in circles.

The big question will always be implementation. If that variable is not changed, the equation would yield the same results. The government must take the bold step of getting the right people and giving them the resources to work the land.  All those who fail within a set time must be dispossessed of that land. The country can’t afford to compromise food security because of a few lazy individuals.


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