In 1994, we ushered in a new era for South Africa, we lived the euphoria of a united, non-racial, non-sexist nation, based on a collective will to make South Africa our united home.
One of the dreams captured in the rainbow we saw, was that of land reform, its shared vision of a nation growing together based on the will to make it work.
As we look back at this euphoria 24 years later, we ask the question, what have we achieved, and what is hampering what we haven’t achieved?
Negotiators spent endless hours in the chambers of Parliament, sculpturing a solution to one of the most difficult aspects of our Constitution, the property clause. It was at best, a shared commitment to a solution, one where South Africans could find solace and belief in.
As we look back, we ask what is it that went wrong that brought us to the situation we currently see unfolding, namely, land reform and the emotive debate within it.
Against what do we measure our failure, what went wrong, where and why. It went wrong because we depended on one sector, namely government. and not a collective approach.
1. Legislation as the key enabler
When, in 1996 the Constitution was adopted, we shared in the vision it espoused, we stood high on the great foundation it laid; numerous policies and legislation was passed to give effect to the rainbow nation – in this was the package of land reform policies and legislation.
Since then there were many amendments to policy, legislation and political outlooks on land reform. This to give better effect to land reform.
Today, we sit with a plethora of documents which map the way for land reform, we have had 24 years of their implementation – what is it that got us to the situation that we currently face. In the medley of current debates, we must look back, pragmatically, and ask did we do if enough, if not, what caused this? Did we, as South Africans, not government, do enough?
An assessment of the implementation of land reform since 1994, paints a picture that we have not achieved the ideals we set-out in 1994, we have not remained steadfast in that commitment. There have been numerous Land Summits, workshops, meetings, consultative sessions, all have concluded that not enough has been done, yet following all this, we face the burden of now having to openly admit, not enough was done. If we had done enough, we would not be facing the current options that have been placed on the table.
2. The state as enabler
An important question we must ask, is, if we have the policies and legislation that enable land reform, what has been the stumbling block – a closer assessment must be done of the State’s capacity to implement and undertake land reform. If one takes a closer look at the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, which is responsible for implementing land reform, we will find that the Branch / Unit (Land Redistribution and Development) responsible for this, is understaffed, with numerous vacant posts, and a budget not fit to achieve the goals, and a bureaucratic system that lends itself to long and protracted processes to acquire and develop farms.
Has a full assessment been done of this situation, and its impact on achieving the goals for land reform – I would argue no. Take a closer look at how many steps are needed to undertake a land reform transaction, and why this is the case. Analyse the process, how does it take 4 years to acquire a farm from a farmer willingly selling his farm and contributing to land reform – not only by selling his farm for governments land reform programme, but partnering with his workers as new business partners.
The capacity of the state to implement is a key question to the whole land reform debate, one which must be assessed and unpacked to decipher inability to implement – from a lack of policy or legislative, or will do so perspective.
3. The private sector as enabler
Another aspect that needs assessing is what has been the private sectors role in land reform. We all seem to assume that land reform is a government programme alone, it is not – it is a collective one, based on the active participation of all sectors of society. Since the debate about land reform and expropriation without compensation has unfolded, various sectors have spoken out, which indicates a healthy democracy that enables us to speak, but has this transcended into a collective-united voice in taking land reform forward based on collective solutions. This should be a question we must address.
Since resigning from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in 2017, and starting my agri-business, I have undertaken a number of projects in the private sector, where farmers want to contribute and participate in land reform and agri-development – the biggest stumbling block is funding, various models have been proposed, but none are found to fit into our current financing models, especially from a private sector perspective. What can the private sector contribute to resolving the land question?
I have participated in numerous private sector forums that have developed models for land reform, only to see them fall apart because funding from either government or the private sector has not come to fruition. We must thus ask again, what is our collective will to finding a solution – can our financial institutions find a way to contributing and achieving the objectives for land reform and agriculture.
In achieving our objectives as a Rainbow Nation, we must ask difficult questions, but also finding collective solutions to these.
The time has come for us to find a meaningful solution to land reform; one based on a non-sexist, non-racist, prosperous South Africa for all.
Lets make this a collective solution, based on ability to unite!
* Elton Greeve is the managing Director at EMG Agri-Solutions.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.