[Marxism] Mbeki's plan for land redistribution brings angry response from whites

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Fri Jul 30 13:31:28 MDT 2004


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Mbeki's plan for land redistribution brings angry response from whites
By Basildon Peta in Johannesburg
30 July 2004 
The South African government is considering new regulations to limit foreign 
ownership of property in South Africa, in a move that would directly affect 
British investors.
The proposed measures, which are still being worked out by the government, 
are an attempt to deal with soaring property prices caused by rich foreigners 
buying properties in South Africa, pushing local people out of the market. A 
large number of Britons, have bought homes in Cape Town, taking advantage of the 
strong pound against the South African rand.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance yesterday attacked the proposed move 
on the ground that limiting foreign property ownership would discourage 
investment.
Meanwhile, South Africa's white landowners are angry over a tough black 
empowerment policy proposed by the government to transfer half of white-owned 
agricultural land to blacks. The draft agriculture empowerment policy announced 
this week by Thoko Didiza, the Agriculture Minister, also requires 35 per cent 
black ownership of mainly white- owned agriculture based companies by 2008. This 
means white-owned agricultural companies would have to start selling equity 
to blacks, if the policy is adopted in November.
The policy would also require 10 per cent ownership by farmworkers of all 
farm-level enterprises by 2008. Another requirement is for agricultural 
enterprises to spend 50 per cent of their money on buying goods and services from 
black-owned companies by 2010, a target that increases to 70 per cent by 2014.
White farm owners say the plan sets "unrealistic" targets and would set South 
Africa on the route taken by its southern neighbour, Zimbabwe. Agri South 
Africa, representing 40,000 commercial farm owners and 45,000 smaller-scale 
farmers, said the plan to transfer half of productive farmland to blacks by 2014 
sets out goals that may be hard to reach. The Transvaal Agricultural Union, a 
hardline white farmers' group, charged that "South Africa was now following 
Zimbabwe's path". Another mainly white farmers' group, Grain South Africa, said 
the policy had failed to take into account concerns raised by farmers in 
negotiations with the government before the draft policy was compiled.
Ms Didiza said the new initiatives were meant to facilitate the entry of 
blacks into the farming sector. "The objectives [of this policy] are to eliminate 
racial discrimination in the agricultural sector," she said. The plan means 
black farmers will own 30 per cent of agricultural land by 2014 while another 20 
per cent will be available for lease to black farmers. Thirty-five per cent 
of farm businesses will be black-owned by 2008.
Under apartheid, the best farm land was reserved for whites while 
impoverished blacks were systematically driven off their land. South Africa's first black 
president, Nelson Mandela, launched reforms in 1995 to try to rectify the 
land ownership patterns in South Africa. However, very little progress was made 
under Mr Mandela's policy, in whichland redistribution was voluntary.
President Mbeki's government estimates that only 3 per cent of land has been 
acquired under this system. It has thus drawn the controversial draft charter 
on black empowerment in the agricultural sector to try and expedite land 
reform.
But Mr Mbeki has often been warned that land reform is an emotive issue and 
can create chaos if not handled properly.
Analysts said because of the low margins in agriculture, it would be very 
difficult to fund the transfer of land and the purchase of equity in agribusiness 
by blacks in the four-year deadline.
Ms Didiza conceded that funding was a challenge.
Unlike the Zimbabwe government, South Africa has pledged to compensate 
farmers who lose their land, although the details are not spelt out.
Motsepe Matlala, president of the National African Farmers Union, whose 
members suffered under apartheid policies, said the targets were important.  



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