Zuma: SA land reform fails to curb poverty

South Africa’s slow-moving land-reform programme, aimed at returning land seized by the white minority after 1913 to black people, has so far failed to eradicate poverty, African National Congress president Jacob Zuma said on Sunday.

“Our land reform has so far not been linked to rural development,” Zuma said in a speech reported on Sunday on public broadcaster SAFM.

“Our view is that changes in land ownership have not transformed social relations and have not succeeded in combating rural poverty and promoting rural development,” he told graduating students of the University of Zululand in eastern KwaZulu-Natal.

“We need to empower the poor through land reform,” said Zuma, the party’s presidential hopeful in the 2009 poll.

The land-restitution programme focuses on returning land to black people that was seized by whites after 1913.

At the onset of democracy in 1994, about 87% of agricultural land in the country was owned by white farmers, who make up less than 10% of the population.

Thirteen years later, about 4% of land, or four million hectares, have been transferred to black people, a recent report by think tank the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) has found.

The government has promised to redistribute 30% of white-owned land by 2014.

“The economic viability of many rural regions of the country is under threat, which could lead to serious negative consequences for the broader economy and society,” said CDE executive director Ann Bernstein in the May report.

Land reform was taking place “far too slowly” to reach the target of 30%—25-million hectares—by 2014, the report said. There was “absolutely no prospect” of meeting a 2008 deadline for completing all land-restitution claims, it added.

South African lawmakers late last month announced the shelving of proposed legislation that the government had hoped to use to speed up the land-reform programme by allowing it to expropriate land.

The Expropriation Bill, which raised the ire of many after it was first introduced in April, was done away with due to improper consultation, the parliamentary committee on public works said.—Sapa-AFP

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