South Africa’s controversial land reform that aims to take property and farmland away from white owners without compensation for redistribution among the black population is stirring heated debate in the country.
The reform, which has become a burning issue both domestically and internationally, was pushed by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) earlier this year. Last month, the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa pledged to speed up implementation of the disputed policy.
Expropriating and fair distribution of lands is set to boost economic development and redress the historical balance‚ according to Andile Mngxitama, the leader and founder of pan-Africanist revolutionary socialist political party Black First Land First (BLF).
Mngxitama claims that the farm lands were stolen by whites, and thus must be returned to its rightful black owners.
“In South Africa‚ if we were to look at just two sectors‚ agriculture and mining‚ we argue that because of the inefficiency of those sectors… you will still have to radically redistribute those sectors,” Mngxitama said at the Rumble in the Urban Jungle debate hosted by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Cape Town.
Responding to the claims, Dawie Roodt, chief economist at the financial services company Efficient Group, said that farms are not currently the place where everyone wants to be and is able to create wealth under modern economic conditions. According to the strategist, only five percent of black people in the country think that land is a crucial issue for their prosperity.
“The most important issue is unemployment – we want jobs‚ we want to grow the economy in order to alleviate poverty in South Africa‚” Roodt said.
“People do not want farms. People want to stay in cities‚ where they can have proper and decent jobs. We are not going to break agricultural land into millions of small pieces and settle millions of small farmers in South Africa‚” the economist said, adding that the global trends show that farms are only uniting and getting bigger across the agricultural states.
However, the land reform defender insists that unfair distribution of farmlands has led to poverty, unemployment and even starvation. According to Mngxitama, it’s crucial to force the key South African industries to employ more people.