Land redistribution, especially when it comes to commercial farming, has been a disaster. A multi-billion rand disaster.
Are you ready for round 2: the disaster on steroids?
Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza, announced that of 896 farms measuring 700,000 hectares of “under utilised or vacant State land” would be leased out with the option to buy.
A decision on successful applicants will be made in eight weeks of applications closing on 15 November. Applications will be open for a month.
Let that timetable settle in for a second.
Nearly 900 farms – more than 1.3 million football fields – distributed in three months.
It all sounds rather quick, doesn’t it? Some may even say a little rushed…
Oh, yeah, there’s some kind of local government elections happening next year. I wonder if that has something to do with it?
While this is a clever political ploy to take back the initiative around the expropriation without compensation debate from the EFF, the actual logic is laughable.
The minister waxed on about the rights and duties of beneficiaries and the rights and duties of government as the landowner.
Not so long ago, government did not even know how many buildings it was renting for its different departments each month (another free for all scandal if you recall).
Just yesterday, the Hawks swooped on senior government officials who had syphoned off at least R255 million in the Free State (a mere pittance when viewed against the industrial scale looting we have witnessed).
The point is, the same government whose officials have been pillaging and looting now want us to believe that it will keep track not only of the land, but also of the infrastructure in a responsible and professional manner?
For the record: I have supported the redistribution of unused state land for some time. But that was before Covid and our most recent multi-billion rand PPE corruption scandal.
Addressing the issue of corruption during her briefing, the minister said that government has taken a “stance” against this hallowed South African pastime.
How exactly the long fingers of opportunism will be kept away from this programme, was never touched on.
Be that as it may, there is just as little chance that much of this land will end up as commercially successful farms. The odds are just stacked against the beneficiaries and it is probably not even the real goal of this exercise.
It is going to be interesting to see how the crown jewels in this allocation of 896 farms will be divvied up.
The ANC government does not have a good track record when it comes to ensuring that connected goons – i.e. “politically connected individuals” – stay away from the feeding trough.
Hendri Pelser is the acting digital editor of The Citizen.co.za