A Hopeful Leg-Up for Black South African Farmers

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The President’s latest weekly newsletter announces plans for land reform targeting black farmers

 

By Seth Meyer

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 11 of VARSITY News.

 

On the fifth of October, President Rhamaposa wrote his weekly newsletter to the nation. In it, he detailed intentions to grant leases to over 700 000 hectares of vacant or underused state land to black South African farmers.

 

The initiative forms part of the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) which has provided 8.4 million hectares of land to disadvantaged individuals since 1994. This, and other land reform initiatives, have been put in place and enacted to counter the profound effects of The Native Land Act of 1913. The apartheid-era law had played a key role in restricting the land ownership of black South Africans to 13% of South Africa’s land. That is well over a thousand times less land than owned by white South Africans of European descent per capita. Though progress has been made, land distributed through the PLAS constitutes only 10% of land used for commercial farming.

 

To ensure that the land being provided is rendered productive, it will only be available to the public on a non-transferrable lease at a fee based on the land’s value. Additionally, it will only be granted on condition that it is used as agricultural land.

 

The program, he wrote, will be specific to black South Africans but will prioritize women, the youth, and those with disabilities. The president also wrote that the recipients of public land will be taught the skills essential to the operation of a successful business and will be provided with the necessary machinery and equipment to that end.

 

Historically, systems of land distribution have tended to favor older men, and studies have shown that government efforts at educating and assisting those who have been granted the land have been mostly deficient or non-existent.

 

The president cited food-insecurity as a primary problem the proposition seeks to help ameliorate, writing that, “41% of people in rural areas and 59,4% in urban areas have severely inadequate access to food.” Providing citizens with land in a more equal manner, whilst also addressing historical injustices, is also essential to ensuring South Africa’s food security, he wrote. The president also cited unequal distribution of essential means of production like land as a,  “recipe for social unrest”.

 

Rhamaposa called on the beneficiaries of this land to “think big” and spread their success throughout their communities. In doing so, he writes that they will heal the deep divisions of our past and dispel the myth that only white farmers are capable of success.

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