SA MP slams land reform, Pretoria’s quiet diplomacy


Blessing Zulu/Ndamu Sandu

SOUTH African MP and Democratic Alliance spokesman on Agriculture Andries Botha has slammed the chaotic fast-track land reform programme and his country’s quiet

diplomacy.


In his report after a five-day visit to Zimbabwe with the parliamentary agricultural portfolio committee between April 26 and May 1, Botha said South Africa was paying heavily for its refusal to take a tough stance on Zimbabwe. The treatment of South African farmers by Zimbabwe has also been a cause for concern.


“These South Africans are still being targeted and evicted, contrary to Zimbabwe government assurances, and to date they have not received any compensation whatsoever,” he said.


“South African investors and the South African mission are being disregarded with impunity, because the South African government refuses either to censure or to use its considerable leverage to influence governance in Zimbabwe,” Botha said.


He said the land reform progra-mme had displaced many people.


“Inevitable retrenchments of farm workers by evicted farmers amount to between 400 000 and 600 000 individuals,” said Botha.


“This is in excess of the 500 000 eventual settlers that government contemplates while they themselves admit that they haven’t reached 200 000 yet – a net loss of more than 300 000 people in agriculture,” he said.


Botha said the retrenched workers were now destitute and relied entirely on food handouts.


The retrenched workers, many of whom originated from neighbouring countries, are homeless, destitute and have little or no access to land and are therefore dependent on food aid, he said.


“In addition, according to NGOs and the labour unions, they suffer serious human rights abuses because they are regarded as opponents of the government.”


Botha said Zanu PF’s argument that it was grabbing land – on the premise that Britain had originally stolen the land without compensation and that the land was merely being returned to its rightful owners – was bankrupt.


“This argument entirely ignores the fact that this very same government has registered 80% of all present title deeds held by commercial white farmers.


“This means that 80% of the present farmers bought and paid for their land after Independence with the permission and consent of the Zimbabwe government, particularly those that registered their title deeds only after a certificate of no interest from government was issued as required since 1986.


“Without this, registration could not take place,” he said.

The visit by the South African MPs follows another by a delegation from Agri SA.


The delegation said they were convinced that the land reform programme was aimed primarily at securing political patronage and was implemented in such a way that it caused irreparable damage to the production base of agriculture. This contrasts with statements in the official media suggesting Zimbabwe’s land reform programme met with universal approval by the delegation.


State media continue to peddle distortions on the number of people who have been resettled. This week the Herald said at least 300 000 people have been resettled under the A1 model and 54 000 under A2. But late last month the Sunday Mail quoted Agriculture minister Joseph Made as saying only 210 000 settlers had been allocated land under the A1 scheme and 14 880 under A2.

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