South Africa Land Seizures
Cyril Ramaphosa, the leader of the ruling African National Congress(ANC) party and South Africa’spresident has declared that the time has come to „correct a past wrong“. What Mr. Ramaphosa meant by this, when he said it in August earlier this year, was that the constitutional amendment in order to seize the land of white farmers without compensation had been voted for in February. The idea behind this is that the land will be taken from white farmers and redistributed to black farmers to make up for the injustice of Apartheid. Official reports say that white South Africans own approximately 72% of individually owned farms in South Africa, while the black majority owns only 4%.
The president took office earlier this year after succeeding the former president Jacob Zumawhose term was riddled with scandals, one of Mr. Ramaphosa’s first tasks was creating a strategy on how to move forward after the Parliament voted to amend the constitution. Officials deny the claims that there is a secret plot to seize highly valued white-owned farms as such a move was widely regarded as a major contributor to the catastrophe of their neighbours, Zimbabwe. When this process first started in South Africa it operated under the system of „willing seller, willing buyer“, but the ANC failed its mission of transferring30% of landby 2000. This will prove to be just a start of the many troubles of this policy. Namely, much of this newly transferred land was not used productively, as many of the new owners did not have the necessary skills to operate commercial farms. What’s more, the government had to stop transferring expropriated land out of fear that the new owners will simply turn around and sell it back to the whites. If this wasn’t bad enough it is estimated that this resulted in 70% of land transferredto the new black owners is now being unused, at least for farming.
If this sounds troublingly familiar with what happened in Zimbabwe some years ago then you would not be mistaken. The irony lies in the timing of this decision by the South African government, as now the Zimbabwean government has established a compensation committee to allow for the former commercial white farmers to be compensated 18 years after the land expropriation act took place. An important note from this history lesson is that 39 of these „repossessed“ farms were in the hands of the at-the-time president Robert Mugabe and hundreds more were transferred from white farmers to black workers and war veterans, many of whom had little to no knowledge of farming. In this former „Jewel of Africa“ the „land-grab“ lowered food production by a whopping 70%and has cost the country $20 billionin lost export revenues, food aid imports, and economic growth forgone, as estimated in 2009 by Zimbabwean economist Eddie Cross.
Apart from the concerns by investors when it comes to property rights in the Rainbow Nation, there are also safety concerns (and obviously moral ones). AfriForum, a civil rights group in South Africa, claims that farmers are twice more likelyto be murdered than the police and killed at four timesthe rate of the wider community. However, these figures can’t be verified as the government of South Africa has refused to release any statistics related to the farm murders since 2007, denying that white farmers are being targeted and stated that this is part of a wider crime problem of South Africa. This last point would have been easier to believe if it were happening in the city but what we are describing here are farms, in rural areas.
We will not go further into the crime statistics and the reasons behind these attacks, whether they be due to race or wealth is a matter of debate. We currently just don't have enough information to know on what scale these crimes are happening as there are speculations that the government is downplaying the statistics as it is obviously in their favour. Should you wish to learn more about the stories of victims and lives of the other white farmers in South Africa you are encouraged to do so, but be warned the stories and images are both shocking and graphic. What I focused on here was the effects, as well as the very likely economic consequences of this „no-compensation“ policy, which as experts say and history teaches us, will be ruinous for the Rainbow Nation.
WRITTEN BY ALEKSA TRIFUNOVIC FOR BESA
PLEASE DIRECT ANY INQUIRY TO AS.BESA @UNIBOCCONI.IT