Posted on August 11, 2005

Land Reform: SA Should ‘Learn From Zimbabwe’

Mail & Guardian Online (Johannesburg), Aug. 10

South Africa could learn about speedy land reform from its neighbour Zimbabwe, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said on Wednesday.

“We’ve got lessons to learn from Zimbabwe — how to do it fast,” she told an African distance-education conference in Pretoria.

There is a general complaint in South Africa that land reform is too slow, too structured and “that we need a bit of an oomph”.

“So, we might want some skills exchange between us and Zimbabwe, to get some of their colleagues to help us here with that,” the deputy president told delegates with a smile — to muted laughter.

Hundreds of commercial farmers were evicted from their land since 2000, often forcibly, in Zimbabwe’s much-criticised land-reform programme.

Earlier this month, a conference on South Africa’s land-reform programme — designed to correct apartheid-era wrongs — concluded that the willing-buyer-willing-seller principle is no longer appropriate.

It resolved that a new mechanism be found.

At the time, Mlambo-Ngcuka said the principle is slowing down land reform.

The Democratic Alliance questioned the wisdom of Mlambo-Ngcuka’s pronouncement at the education conference.

“Surely Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is joking,” it said in a statement.

“The lesson for our country lies in not following the same route which Zimbabwe has taken. Zimbabwe offers a textbook example of ways in which land reform should not be carried out.”

The blame for the slow pace of South Africa’s land-reform programme rests with the government, the party said.

“The legal framework is in place and there are enough landowners and farmers who want to be part of this process. The government is trying to turn landowners into villains instead of recognising that they are victims of government slackness and failure to vote the funds.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka should act in a more “balanced and responsible manner” when making public statements, the DA said.

The South African government wants all land-restitution claims settled within the next three years, and 30% of agricultural land in the hands of the previously disadvantaged by 2014.

By December last year, 3% of commercial farm land had been redistributed.