Sifelani Tsiko in JOHANNESBURG, SA
South Africa needs a bolder approach to the land reform issue to prevent the alarmingly frequent murders related to land conflict arising out of inequality and a historically antagonistic relationship between white commercial farmers, black labourers and local communities, an official of the National African Farmers Union of South Africa said yesterday.
Nafu president Motsepe Matlala told participants at a regional conference on agriculture, environment, science and technology innovations that many people were being killed in land-related conflicts because of the slow progress of land redistribution and high cost of land restitution under the “willing seller, willing buyer” principle.
“The ownership and re-allocation of agricultural land is possibly the most emotive and controversial topics in the agricultural arena,” he said.
“In South Africa many people are being murdered because of land conflicts. Our farmers are being killed over struggles of ownership and re-allocation of land.
“What should we do so that our people are not killed? We need land re-allocation to avert this. We should change everything, let’s de-politicise agricultural land and convert all farming entities into a 99-year leasehold with options to renew if farms are highly productive.”
Mr Matlala said more than 52 governments in Africa were not selling land and his country should move to re-allocate land without paying to prevent deaths arising out of land conflict.
The land issue which is heating up in South Africa shows that Zimbabwe was right in carrying out its land reform programme which sent an unequivocal message to the world on the importance of land in tackling poverty and enhancing social equity.
Land reform has been a song Zimbabwe has sung for the past three decades, but few countries in Africa and other bilateral and multilateral institutions ever danced to it.
Scientists and development experts at an international conference organised by the Regional Agricultural and Environmental Innovations Network – Africa (RAEIN-Africa) say securing access to land is critical for millions of poor people in Africa.
They say modern, efficient, and innovative strategies on land rights are vital to reducing poverty and promoting growth, agriculture production, better nutrition and sustainable development among poor communities.
Veteran Zimbabwe agronomist and chairman of the RAEIN-Africa board, Mr Andrew Mushita, expressed concern that significant investments in science and technology, research and development had failed to reduce poverty and food insecurity in the sub-Saharan Africa.
“Despite these investments sub-Saharan Africa continues to be plagued by poverty and food insecurity especially for resource constrained communities,” he said.
“Most countries will not be able to achieve their MDG targets particularly that of eradicating poverty and hunger by 2015.”
In 1996, two years after the end of apartheid, some 60 000 white commercial farmers owned almost 70 percent of land classified as agricultural and leased a further 19 percent.