October 25, 2005

Mbeki endorses move to expropriate land

President Thabo Mbeki has endorsed land expropriation in South Africa, but says it must be done in an environment of “fair compensation”. Frustrated by the slow pace of land reform via the “willing seller willing buyer” system, the ruling African National Congress and its allies have called on government to quicken the pace through expropriation. They argue that farmers are deliberately inflating farm prices to stall redistribution.
Government is expected to make its first expropriation, a farm in Lichtenburg, North West, after a failure to agree on a price. Mbeki told Parliament that expropriation would speed up the reform process. “We say that expropriation is provided for in the constitution but the constitution also provides that there must be compensation, fair compensation,” he said.
Organised agriculture reacted with alarm recently when notices of expropriation were sent to a number of farmers by the land affairs department. The concept of expropriation has raised the question of what constitutes fair compensation. However, allegations have sprung up of farmers being offered less than half the market value of farms. There have also been questions of government using the productive value of the land rather than the market value when deciding on compensation.
Referring to the row around Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and her statement that South Africa could learn from Zimbabwe in the matter of land reform, Mbeki said that “merely because the Zimbabwe solution was studied does not mean South Africa seeks to emulate it”. He said those who had criticised Mlambo-Ngcuka’s remarks were “scaremongers”.
A different view was presented by AgriSA president Lourie Bosman, “Most of the problems leading to slow pace of land reform can be traced to government’s lack of capacity. Before resorting to expropriation, government should reinforce its own capacity”. Transvaal Agricultural Union GM Bennie van Zyl supported AgriSA’s stance, saying expropriation would derail investment in the sector. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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