The KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union says a land audit would prove that the government has achieved its land redistribution target of 30 percent in the province and has almost done so countrywide.
The comment comes amid fears that the government could ditch its willing buyer, willing seller land reform policy, following remarks made by President Jacob Zuma at the ANC’s national policy conference in Gauteng this week.
“There is hope. We have got to keep level-headed and just not say or do things that are reactionary,” said the union’s spokesman, Robin Barnsley.
He said the real challenge was not the transfer of land, but the government’s lack of support for recipients once they gained ownership.
Many emerging black farmers did not have the training or the working capital to get their farming off the ground. Also, many needed help in complying with retail standards and getting to grips with marketplace dynamics.
Barnsley said that despite repeated calls for a land audit to determine ownership, the government had failed to perform one. An audit was essential because it would show how much progress had been made.
Zuma told delegates at the ANC’s policy conference earlier this week that the willing buyer, willing seller principle was “too expensive” and “taking too long” to address landlessness brought about by the expropriation laws of 1913.
He said although people were angry about the economy and landlessness, the ANC would not make any unconstitutional proposals.
Professor Johann Kirsten, head of the department of agricultural economics, extension and rural development at the University of Pretoria, said public critiques of the pace of land reform had been “far too harsh” on the ANC. The party should be congratulated for the progress made.
The government had re-distributed 9.7 percent of white-owned agricultural land, Kirsten said. This excluded “a large volume of private transactions where black individuals – including many of the ANC leaders – have bought farmland from white owners”.
Kirsten said these transactions had taken place without assistance from the state and were therefore not recorded in the land reform statistics.
He said that in the absence of a formal land audit, it was estimated that privately owned land made up only 48.8 percent of KwaZulu-Natal.
Of the 2.4 million hectares of privately owned land whose ownership had been verified and cross-checked, 957 000ha or 39.8 percent was in the hands of black individuals or communities, Kirsten said.
“If one adds traditional authorities, the Ingonyama Trust area and land owned by the state and its parastatals in KwaZulu-Natal, then white-owned land makes up only 24 percent of all land in the province that can currently be verified,” said Kirsten.
He said the results were similar in provinces like the North West and Mpumalanga.