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By Editorial staff

Journalist


Skills the gate to land of plenty

From thriving citrus farms to abandoned orchards, a tale of successful partnerships and devastating losses in SA's land restitution journey.


Our stories today should be required reading not only for the ANC government, which sells illusions of a better life to its voters, but also to every political populist who pushes the lie that, once people have land, all their problems will disappear.

We report on examples of where land restitution is succeeding – providing a community with jobs and future prospects – and where it has failed and destroyed a once world-leading citrus business.

At Moletele in Limpopo, the community has partnered with an experienced citrus company and is successfully producing limes for both SA’s local market and for export, using the latest tech and methods.

Less than 200km away is Zebediela, the estate which was once one of the biggest producers of oranges in the world and where now orchards are overrun with weeds and grass; buildings have been looted and torched and the community is squabbling with itself while hundreds of jobs have been lost.

Political analyst Sandile Swana is spot-on when he says: “For the past 30 years of ANC rule, land reform and restitution have failed.”

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“Due to people having for years been dispossessed of their land, they have lost farming and agricultural expertise. You need skills to become a farmer and land owner – meaning you should be prepared, having gone through the agricultural college.”

Without skills, experienced partners, skills transfer and education, these schemes are doomed to failure. Most of them have not succeeded, with the Moletele example the exception.

It is not too late to implement proper land reform. Government needs to put in place support programmes, along with finance, and then monitor progress.

Existing businesses need to be brought in as partners.

But, most of all, politicians need to stop selling the myth that land ownership opens the gates to the land of milk and honey.

ALSO READ: Land reform: Three decades squandered