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Elite capture of land distribution alarming, says PLAAS researcher

May 17, 2018
Elite capture of land distribution alarming, says PLAAS researcher

Worrisome patterns of elite capture and the lack of public oversight and accountability in land distribution are concerning issues, says Professor Ruth Hall from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS).

She was one of the speakers at a Leader’s Angle event on Land Reform, alongside advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, Landbank’s Dr Litha Magingxa and Dr Aninka Claassen, director of the Land & Accountability Research Centre (LARC) that was hosted by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) on Thursday morning. 

“Who is getting the land now that it is not exclusively a programme for the poor? The state can buy farms and allocate a R20 million farm to an individual. It can buy a R500 000 farm and allocate it to a group of 20 farm workers,” she says.

“We are seeing very worrying patterns of elite capture in land distribution and there is no public oversight and accountability around how public resources are being used.”

“In addition to small-scale farmers and farm workers getting land, what we see is a pattern of urban-based business men getting access to farms, despite the fact that only 23% of beneficiaries are women.

“We also see a very concerning trend which started in restitution and is now evident in redistribution where farms are being acquired and allocated to strategic partnerships with agribusiness companies. These companies often have downstream operations and they want to control primary production by signing up farm workers as shareholders but without effective control and actual dividend that is paid out,” she says.

“When the land redistribution process started, the idea was to redistribute in open as well as rural areas. But that has disappeared off the radar. The idea that land reform is an exclusively rural and agricultural process has emerged but in our current debate this is changing. People are putting up their hands and saying, ‘We want access to land; we don’t want to wait on a housing list for decades’.”

She says one of the key issues holding back land redistribution is that the land reform budget has never been more than 1% of the national budget.

“Currently the redistribution budget is sitting at 0, 4 %. In terms of actual resource allocation it doesn’t like it has ever been a political priority.”