Opinion

An emotive issue

Staff Reporter

There was consternation in certain quarters this week after President Jacob Zuma said he was eyeing changes to South Africa's land-reform programme.

There was consternation in certain quarters this week after a visit to Limpopo by President Jacob Zuma, during which he said he was eyeing changes to South Africa’s land-reform programme.

“The general view is that the willing-buyer, willing-seller model does not work. We will be seeking a much more pragmatic formula to land redistribution,” he said. “It will be a formula that should address the issue as part of our country’s ongoing effort at national reconciliation.”

In response, the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) suggested that the willing-buyer, willing-seller method is not at fault, and that Zuma had been “misled” by the incompetence of officials.

“The real problem is the incompetence of officials, who delay the administrative process for buyers and sellers,” FF+ agriculture and land spokesperson Pieter Groenewald said.

According to reports, Groenewald felt there was enough land for sale at reasonable prices. “But due to [the] administrative incompetence of the Department of Land Affairs, the sales have not been finalised,” he said.

Where between these two viewpoints the truth lies is something that has created heated debate. But what is certain is that the issue of land reform is an extremely emotive one in this country, being closely tied to our history, and which will have considerable bearing on our future.

Adding to the feeling of disquiet in some quarters over our land reform is the much-criticised and sometimes violent programme instituted by our northern neighbour, Zimbabwe. From that, we have a ready-set example of how not to do things, and have seen first-hand the damage an ill-considered programme can do to society, the economy and morale.

Zuma’s reference to the “country’s ongoing effort at national reconciliation” is laudable, but he would do well to engage all affected stakeholders before making public announcements on land reform. The mention of change, without giving detail, caused some unnecessary alarm over what is an emotive issue.

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