SOUTH Africa must speedily address inequitable land ownership patterns to avoid Zimbabwe-style farm invasions, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned. <
The ICG, which deals with conflicts around the globe, said South Africa faced rising tension over land and should act quickly to avert a grabbing of farms.
“South Africa still has time to get it right on land reform and avoid future land-related violence and insecurity,” ICG special advisor, John Prendergast, said.
“The government, farmers and donors, can take practical steps to accelerate the current land reform programme, contribute to poverty reduction, and reduce landlessness. The stakes are enormous, with implications throughout southern Africa.”
In a newly-released book titled Blood and Soil: Land, Politics and Conflict Prevention in Zimbabwe and South Africa, the ICG said “tensions over land and race, which have already contributed much to Zimbabwe’s political and economic collapse, are rising in South Africa as well”.
“New approaches are needed if they are not to push tempers to the boiling point across all of southern Africa,” the ICG said.
“Resolving the challenge of land will be central to getting Zimbabwe back on its feet when that nation eventually experiences a change of government.”
The ICG, based in Brussels, Belgium, and led by eminent statesmen, said while land reform was an important issue, South Africa should be wary of plunging into a crisis of farm seizures.
“For all the understandable international outrage over seizures of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe, the biggest losers of the land programme have been black Zimbabweans – black farm workers, black members of the opposition, and all those who were not part of the ruling elite,” the ICG said.
“There are tremendous historical injustices that need to be dealt with both in Zimbabwe and South Africa, but Zimbabwe has demonstrated the deadly dangers of exploiting land redistribution for blatantly political ends.”
The ICG said President Robert Mugabe had “exploited genuine sensitivities about the land issue to divert attention from growing dissatisfaction with his government”.
It said the bungling of land redistribution in Zimbabwe “exacerbated racial and ethnic polarisation”, as well as precipitating economic decline. The ICG said the disorderly exercise left agriculture in ruins and the country experiencing food shortages.