SA addressing racially skewed land ownership

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma says the systematic dispossession of land under colonialism and apartheid has left South Africa with a highly skewed racial distribution in land ownership and agricultural production.

Releasing the 20 Year Review: South Africa 1994 to 2014 in Pretoria on Tuesday, President Zuma said: “The systematic dispossession of land under both colonialism and apartheid has left us with highly skewed racial distribution in land ownership and agricultural production, as well as a struggling smallholder farming sector.”

The President said the system of reserves, which was introduced under colonialism and later reinforced as homelands under apartheid, left a legacy of poverty and underdevelopment in former homeland rural areas.

What was inherited in 1994

Due to the 1913 Native Land Act, the character of the non-farm rural economy in 1994, showed strong differences between former homelands and commercial farming areas, according to the Review.

An estimated 3.5 million black people were forcibly removed from their ancestral land to reserves in the former homelands such as Gazankulu and Ciskei as a result of the Act which saw white commercial farmers owning 87% of land, while indigenous Africans were left with only 13%.

Commercial agricultural sector has prospered

Between 1993 and 2009, the contribution of the agriculture sector to the economy, as measured in its ‘value added’, increased in real (inflation-adjusted) terms by 30%, the Review says.

Since 1994, the value of South Africa’s agricultural exports has approximately doubled, after adjusting for inflation. Agriculture accounted for about 26% of the trade surplus during 2000 through to 2003.

However, the 20 Year Review notes there are some areas such as labour unrest and the lack of finality in resolving land claims that have cast a cloud over investment in some areas.

Commercial agriculture has expanded in the last 20 years, but there are a number of areas where it is under threat and this includes labour unrest, low prices for milk, and the potential danger from climate change.

According to the report, the sector cannot be taken for granted as it both employs large numbers of people and is still a major economic motor for rural areas.

“We are still some way off from seeing the establishment of a successful smallholder farming sector – with challenges in a number of the instruments established to support them as well as helping them to access markets,” reads the 20 Year Review.

Food security and nutrition

The eradication of hunger and poverty is an important development objective, as good nutrition is vital for improved health and human capital outcomes. Poverty and food insecurity in South Africa are some of the legacies of race-based socio-economic development practices that were enforced throughout history.

African households were historically forced to live in areas that were too far from markets to develop a sustainable agricultural industry, forcing particularly men to sell their labour as migrant labourers in cities.

Unemployment and widespread poverty, combined with the historical loss of land and farming acumen continue to drive food insecurity among black people in South Africa.

Apartheid transformed livelihood systems in South Africa, causing households in rural and urban areas to rely on non-agricultural sources of income to purchase food.

General trends since 1994

The main trends that can be seen developing over the period have been the consolidation of the administrations, including the creation of large provincial Departments of Agriculture, inheriting homeland extension officers as well as large numbers of manual workers.

Also, there have been improvements in the development and application of the land restitution and land redistribution models in the globalisation of agriculture, resulting in reducing numbers of commercial farmers, consolidation of farms, and reduction of employment in commercial agriculture.

The last 20 years has seen the removal of many of the subsidies that helped to subsidise industries in former homelands; the integration of urban and rural councils, and in 2000 the creation of much larger local municipalities, including metros or secondary cities and their hinterland, or a number of rural small towns and the commercial farming areas around them.

There has been a major migration, now both permanent to urban centres, small and large, as well as an on-going trend of cyclical labour migration to the mines and urban centres.

By 2009, it was becoming recognised that rural areas were lagging behind urban areas in terms of poverty, unemployment and services, and that this needed to be addressed. This led to the renaming of the Department of Land Affairs as the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

Changing farm economy

One notable development since 1994 has affected not just commercial farming, but also food prices – namely the increasing concentration of the agro-processing sector, which has gone hand-in-hand with the globalisation of agro-food markets and the increasing importance of supermarkets, notes the Review.

Agricultural employment has also been affected by the introduction of general labour legislation such as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the minimum wage in agriculture in 2003.

Since 1994, the value of South Africa’s agricultural exports has approximately doubled, after adjusting for inflation.

Wine exports have trebled by volume over the past 10 years, while export trends of tropical and subtropical fruit have also been robust. South Africa frequently exports maize, except in deficit years. -

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