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Base new land policy on future, not past

Author: Roelof Bezuidenhout

AFTER so many false starts, we have surely learnt enough lessons about land reform to make the right decisions. A black professional was recently quoted as saying something to the effect that “people don’t seem to get it: nothing that can happen is worse than apartheid”. On face value, this statement makes sense. But one has to be careful of taking that argument too far as it implies that the wrongs of the past should be rectified immediately, whatever it takes and whatever the consequences.

Looking back on land reform since 1994, from the viewpoint of many commercial farmers at least, the underlying message has been that the land must be redistributed even if it means the breakdown of a well-established farming industry. Then, once certain goals had been reached, could the focus switch to rebuilding and development. That makes for a paralysing, complex mix of redress, restitution and revenge for farmers to worry about.

Yet, despite the many hurdles and tribulations, commercial farming has survived. Commercial farmer numbers have fallen more as a result of natural attrition, led by economic realities and creeping old age, than as a result of government policies.


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