An emotive issue

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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Most-read stories

August 13 to 19 2009

1. Langa ‘considering his options’ over Hlophe comments
Chief Justice Pius Langa has not ruled out the possibility of a formal complaint about remarks made by Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe last week.

2. ‘I am not going to shake a white man’s hand’
President Jacob Zuma’s legal woes split the legal profession, including judges, right down the middle and Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe believes his sin was to side with the ANC president.

3. No stage fright for Mr President
When President Jacob Zuma sat down last week to make one of his most important announcements since becoming president, his demeanour could only be described as comfortable.

4. Zuma eyes changes to land reform
President Jacob Zuma on Monday declared unequivocally that his government is planning to make “significant changes” to the willing-buyer, willing-seller method of land redistribution.

5. ‘Judge for yourself
Sello Alcock’s report of his interview with Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe in last week’s Mail & Guardian has stirred up a hornet’s nest. Here, Alcock gives his side of the story.

6. Hlophe’s way
Western Cape Judge President Mandlakayise John Hlophe has launched an assault on our report last week of an interview with him, writing to Pius Langa, the chief justice, and IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi, denying all the comments attributed to him.

7. A nightmare that turned into a dream
Diplomats and foreign correspondents who spoke to the Mail & Guardian this week said Jacob Zuma’s presidency was proving a pleasant surprise, rather than the nightmare they had feared.

8. Time to kill
Two weeks ago I was getting ready to go to work, wearing a crisp white shirt and polished shoes that match my Italian suit.

9. Schabir Shaik denies he was driving in Durban
Fraud convict Schabir Shaik, the former financial adviser to President Jacob Zuma, has denied reports that he was driving around in Durban on Monday, while he was supposed to be on parole for a terminal illness.

10. Take2: The Dear John letters
With all this serious journalism going on about Judge John Hlophe’s strange dinner table conversations, many readers will notice that there’s one glaring question that remains unanswered: What did the judge eat?

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