The longer the land reform process takes, the less successful it will be, says former Zimbabwean Minister of Finance Simba Makoni. He formed part of a discussion panel on policy matters and scenarios at this year’s Grain SA Nampo Harvest Day in Bothaville, South Africa.
The discussion was led by Theo Venter, political analyst, and included Chris Venter, Afgri’s CEO, Raphael Karuaihe, Commodities Manager at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and Russell du Preez, farmer and entrepreneur.
Policy is the set of rules that determines where, how and at what pace a country’s agricultural sector, or any other economic sector, grows, said Makoni. “Land redistribution is not land reform, and in Zimbabwe there was no reform,” he added. The value of land, he said, lies in what it is used for.
TITLE DEEDS CRUCIAL
Redistributing land without granting title deeds to new owners will lead to increased investor insecurity, which will motivate potential investors to look elsewhere, said Venter. In Zimbabwe’s case the land reform process resulted in panic and violence due to poor policy planning and application.
This does not have to be the case in South Africa, said Karuaihe. He discussed Namibia’s approach to the process. Contrary to Zimbabwe, the principle of willing sellers and buyers was applied in Namibia, but recipients of land also did not receive title deeds. This approach was eventually abandoned, and the Namibian government currently holds first right of refusal on any agricultural land that comes onto the market. However, most of the land redistributed in the country isn’t productive and doesn’t contribute to the country’s food security.
According to Du Preez, the withholding of title deeds is ‘n major reason for policy uncertainty and investment withdrawal, since it threatens both food security and the free market systems. He encouraged the SA government to look at other country’s failures in this area and to learn from them.
Karuaihe added that systems of land control that withhold title deeds, as is the case with SA’s traditional leaders, strains growth further. In Europe these kinds of systems were abandoned hundreds of years ago. “Is this why Europe is prosperous and Africa isn’t?” he asked.