File picture: Independent Media

Durban - Recent land-related murders and reprisal attacks in KwaZulu-Natal have sparked “sober engagement” about land reform, with the Landless People’s Movement working with leading white commercial farmers to find solutions.

Amid escalating land-related conflicts, the Deputy Minister of Labour and honorary president of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa), Sango Patekile Holomisa, also fears that expropriation of land without compensation could be a recipe for war.

“There have been nine wars over land in South Africa. We are not just talking about battles here, of which there have been too many to count, but full-scale wars. So we need to tread very carefully on how we go about land redistribution,” said Holomisa,

Holomisa’s comments follow last week’s murder of Jeffrey Mothi Ngubane, 30, on an Otto’s Bluff farm near Albert Falls. Ngubane was allegedly shot and killed by the 66-year-old farm owner, Phillip Solomon, during an altercation over a family burial ceremony taking place on his farm.

Although Solomon was arrested and charged with murder, his 60-year-old partner, Marie Louise Bucher, was later attacked and seriously injured.

Leading representatives of the Landless People’s Movement, the Kwazulu-Natal Agricultural Union and the Upper Midlands Agricultural Transformation Initiative (Umati) have slammed these acts of violence.

“They are shameful and should be frowned on by all, irrespective of political persuasion, race or cultural background,” said the Landless People’s Movement Midlands chairperson, Gcino Shabalala.

“Together black and white farmers have worked hard to unite. Incidents like this have a way of reversing the racial harmony. But we are not going to despair. We must seek solutions and find ways to work together,” said Shabalala.

“At the end of the day, all we want is to avoid conflict and live in harmony,” said Umati’s Graham Armstrong. “And co-operation is the only way to foster good relations.”

Expropriating land without compensation would not be conducive to this, said Armstrong.

Shabalala also warned that the ANC’s plans to expropriate land without compensation could backfire horribly. “It could become toxic if not handled properly. When people who are not properly skilled take over agricultural land, farms lose their value. This will suffocate the market and put more strain on food production.”

“We do not want a total take over of the land but 50-50 partnerships. We need each other (commercial white farmers and black landowners),” said Shabalala, who grew up as an unskilled farm dweller.

“I have progressed slowly with the help of white farmers who provided me with modern farming skills,” said Shabalala.

Many other commentators consider the ANC’s latest resolution on land expropriation to be more about countering the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) than facilitating effective land reform.

Since inception, the EFF has touted expropriation without compensation as a rallying call.

Holomisa said while effective land restitution needed to be addressed, what happened to the land was more important.

“We still have huge swathes of communal land we defended in wars of dispossession that are not being used effectively. These stand idle when they could be the bread basket of southern Africa” he said.

Sunday Tribune