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SA land reform ‘is right, just slow’

THE government’s approach to land reform is the right one, albeit a “bit slow”, and it will not be reckless or vindictive in this regard, South Africa’s deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said on Wednesday.

FONT face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Replying to questions in the National Assembly about her recent remarks that South Africa could learn from Zimbabwe about land reform, she said it is doubtful anyone can deny the enormous problems with land-ownership patterns in South Africa.

“The fact that we have these problems is not surprising given the centuries of wars of dispossession and later racially-based colonial and apartheid laws and policies designed specifically to drive black people off their land.

“I am convinced that no one in this House can deny that land redistribution has been moving too slowly,” she said.The government had set a target of redistributing 30% of agricultural land to the previously disadvantaged by 2014, but by June this year, only 3% had been redistributed.

“We want to avoid the problems that have occurred in Zimbabwe-that 20 years after liberation, land redistribution remained incomplete.

“We want to avoid a situation where, because land reform has taken too long, both the government and the people must resort to desperate measures.

“Indeed, we can learn, and everybody across the divide can learn, how we can avoid these experiences (as in Zimbabwe) so that we can truly heal our land. Is that so bad to learn?” Mlambo-Ngcuka asked.

“What we have learnt is that our approach is right. It is just slow. That is the biggest lesson for all of us, that we must do everything that we can and we must do it faster.

“And in the interests of saving the taxpayers’ money, I don’t think we should continue point-scoring about this issue. I think the point has been made,” she said.

Asked about measures to fast-track land reform and the willing-buyer-willing-seller principle, Mlambo-Ngcuka said the government intends to fast-track land reform, which is why more resources have been allocated in the budget to the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs.

“Yes, we regard the principle of willing-seller and willing-buyer a contributor to the slow pace, but we are not going to be reckless in the manner in which we’ll be reviewing it.

“We’ll only be doing it, not to be vindictive in any way to the farming community, but to the extent that it actually does not enable us to speedily redistribute land; definitely, it is not a holy cow.”

There is no need to worry that a minority of South Africans will stop the government from proceeding with speedy land reform.

“In fact, I would even venture to say all normal people in South Africa are very impatient on this issue, because it is in the best interests of all the citizens of this country that we proceed with speed.

“So, I don’t expect any resistance.”Regarding the skills gap between commercial and subsistence farmers, she said another thing that can be learnt from Zimbabwe and elsewhere is that training people is important.

“So, that when they have an opportunity to own land, they will have the skills to be productive – something we don’t have in the country.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka urged opposition members to work with the government to ensure that skills acquisition is fast-tracked. – Sapa.

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