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Anthea Jeffrey: Unintended consequences of ANC Land Proposals

The African National Congress (ANC) has been canny in proposing 12 000 hectares as the maximum amount of land that farmers may own. Though this may not suffice to farm successfully in the Karoo, it is enough to meet the needs of many farmers. By contrast, if a cap of 500 hectares had been proposed, this would have sparked an uproar and cast doubt on the country’s food security. 

A cap of 12 000 hectares takes much of the immediate sting out of the proposal. It is also misleading in suggesting that every farmer can aspire to a farm this size. In fact, if the country’s 86m hectares of commercial farming land were to be divided equally among its roughly 37 000 commercial farmers, each would have a farm of some 2 300 hectares – far short of the 12 000-hectare level. 

More seriously still, once the principle that the Government is entitled to set maximum sizes for farms has been accepted, there will be little to prevent the cap being revised downwards in the future. 

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