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The target

10 November 2009

The news that government will probably have to delay the achievement of the 30% target from 2014 to 2025 will anger many people.  It will be seen as yet more evidence of Government’s failure to deliver on its promises — even of the failure of  land reform.  In my view, however,  it is probably a blessing in disguise. The reality is that much damage has been done through the scramble to acquire hectares as quickly as possible. Especially in respect of land redistribution, this scramble had are two important consequences: first, the total number of households benefitting per year is still absolutely insignificant (not more than 5000, though it’s difficult to know for certain), because it turns out that it is easier to move hectares when working with small numbers of applicants rather than with many.  Secondly, a high percentage of enterprises on land reform land fail altogether – not least because of rushed planning – meaning that there are far few ‘actual beneficiaries’ than the delivery data suggest. As a country with many urgent problems that need to be addressed, we cannot afford this. Even if the land were acquired for ‘free’, this would be too expensive.

There are in fact indications that we are getting closer to an understanding of how to conduct land reform in a way that contributes meaningfully to reducing poverty and unemployment, but we’re not there yet. But let’s suppose we get there soon. I predict that then the so-called ‘budget constraint’ will look very different, because in fact there is no constraint as such, just hard choices made by people who have decided – I think correctly – that in its present form land reform (and redistribution particularly) does not warrant more than the tiny budget share it now gets. When we can show that land reform can really make a difference, the budget constraint will fall away. Then we can talk about more realistic targets: 60%, 70%…..

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Ben Cousins permalink
    10 November 2009 4:15 pm

    I am intrigued by Michael’s statement that ‘we are getting closer to understanding how to conduct land reform in a way that contributes meaningfully to reducing poverty and unemployment’. Are there some real, live examples of land reform ‘success stories’? South Africa desperrtaely needs some of these!

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