Ramaphosa moves the ground reality

Henry

So among the usual chatter, pres. Ramaphosa made a ground-breaking statement in his state of the nation address, the implications of which for farm owners almost went unnoticed. “Through the redistribution program, 25% of our agricultural land has already been transferred to black farmers,” he said, using the research of the respected agricultural economist, Wandile Sihlobo, as a reference.

This is a big leap from the “approximately 8%” to which the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development clung for more than a decade, and which was, among other things, misused to give greater impetus to the ANC’s failed attempt to amend the Constitution to amend to provide for expropriation without compensation.

Add to that the former homelands, conservation areas, unsurveyed areas, property owned by the state or semi-state corporations, mining land belonging to BEE companies and farms bought by black owners without government assistance, and the area in exclusive white ownership falls to well below 50%.

Last year, in the run-up to the parliamentary debate on expropriation without compensation, it was popular among ANC leaders to say in their speeches before the masses that 82% of South Africa’s land is still in the hands of white farmers. The problem is that government officials in their planning and budgets also work on those drug statistics. When it comes to land reform, South Africa has never worked on scientifically provable figures, despite the availability of the deeds office and the surveyor-general’s incorruptible data.

Not all soil can be cut with the same comb. The most important data on land reform is concealed, and that is that the 25% (like the 14% trust lands of traditional authorities) is almost all in the high potential agricultural areas. There is little of it in the Karoo, the Kalahari, Namaqualand and the rest of the drier half of South Africa.

To get to the full truth of land ownership, it is not enough to just point out that white farmers now own less than half of the surface of South Africa. We must also say that it is largely located in the more difficult arable parts of our country.