South African Land Reform Is Negotiable, Minister Says

South African Land Reform Is Negotiable, Minister Says

The issue of land reform has put the South African government under pressure to transform the agricultural sector and address injustices of the past, according to a report in BusinessDayLive by Bekezela Phakathi.

President Jacob Zuma said that land was critical in redressing past wrongs in his February state of the nation address.

As the government tries to push on with the redistribution of land to black farmers, a proposal to limit farm size to 12,000 hectares is a “negotiating tactic,” the minister of agriculture said, according to a BusinessInsider report by Ed Stoddard.

In the Western Cape, home of South Africa’s wine industry, there are multiple projects on the books for agricultural land-reform.

Ivan Meyer is Democratic Alliance provincial leader and finance member of the Executive Council. He presented the Western Cape’s 52-billion rand budget ($4.3 billion US) to the provincial legislature, according to BusinessDayLive.

In his budget speech, Meyer said, “The Western Cape is also South Africa’s key agricultural export region … the province wants to ensure that at least 70 percent of all agricultural land-reform projects are successful over the next five years.”

Carol Beerwinkel, the finance spokeswoman for the ANC, said in the provincial legislature too little was invested for development in rural areas where the majority of the poor lived.

“What we have seen is punitive measures against the poor (who) reject the DA, like farm workers … Very little support is given to struggling municipalities — in fact the allocation for local government only grew by 0.6 percent,” Beerwinkel said, according to BusinessDayLive.

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South Africa’s Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana told Reuters on the sidelines of a South African grain industry conference, “We must find a balance between the need to transform the industry and ensure that food security is sustained,” BusinessInsider reports.

The ruling ANC announced earlier this year a proposal “to accelerate the pace of land redistribution” by capping farm ownership at 12,000 hectares (29,652 acres) or two farms, and barring foreigners from owning agricultural land.

“Whenever you are negotiating, you always put forward a figure. What informs the end of that figure is the process of negotiation,” Zokwana told Reuters, according to BusinessInsider.

The ANC has also proposed what BusinessInsider described as a vague and poorly explained idea to force farmers to sell 50 percent of their land to workers because “the land must be shared amongst those who work it.”

Since apartheid ended, 8.2 million hectares have been transferred to black ownership, the equivalent of 8-10 percent of the land that was owned by whites in 1994, BusinessInsider reports.