via Zimbabwe a disaster, ANC’s stalwart 14 August 2014
ZIMBABWE is a disaster today, thanks to its chaotic and violent land reforms, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, said this week as he assured South African farmers their land would not be seized forcibly and without compensation.
“Zimbabwe was a food basket of Africa but is a disaster today,” Mantashe said, according to reports in South African media while responding to questions after addressing a dialogue on land reform and food security in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party ordered veterans of the country’s liberation struggle to invade farms owned by whites at the turn of the century after the British government told Harare they were not bound by pledges given by their predecessors to fund Zimbabwe’s land reform.
A chaotic and violent campaign followed, forcing more than 4,000 white farmers off their properties with hundreds of thousands of black Zimbabweans resettled on the land in a development that, according to Mugabe, was aimed at addressing colonial imbalances in ownership of the resource.
However, agricultural output collapsed, triggering a decade-long economic crisis which saw millions of Zimbabweans stream across the country’s borders to escape the hardships.
Mugabe blames the economic problems on sanctions imposed by the West at the behest of an angry Britain to punish Harare for the land seizures while critics say the violent and haphazard implementation of the reforms by a notoriously incompetent government worsened the situation.
Regional countries also sneezed as Zimbabwe struggled with its decade-long economic cold but none more than South Africa.
More than one million Zimbabweans are said to have crossed the Limpopo to escape hardships back home, increasing the pressure on jobs, housing and other basic services in South Africa.
The ANC-led government was this week forced to extend temporary residence permits for some 250,000 Zimbabweans after admitting that “it will take time for (Zimbabwe) to fully stabilise”.
Mantashe assured South African farmers that the government would not follow Harare’s example as Pretoria moves to address criticism over the slow pace of land reform which is described as among the ANC’s major failures since 1994.
“We will not do expropriation of land without compensation because that would be disastrous,” he said. “We are not going to grab your farms. If your land is sold, it will be for compensation.”
White farmers, he added, would be expected to help drive the process.
“Farmers must be architects and not victims of change,” he said adding that the land question in South Africa should be allowed to become “desperate”.
And unlike in Zimbabwe, where the former white farmers and their workers were kicked off the land, the ANC is proposing to ensure both groups benefit under the country’s land reforms.
The SA government is proposing that under the reforms farm workers would assume ownership of half the land on which they are employed with the historic owner retaining the other half which would be “proportional to their contribution to the development of the land, based on the number of years they had worked on the land”.
Mantashe said those opposed to the policy and claiming it could lead to food insecurity should come up with alternatives.
“We could agree that the 50% sharing of land between farmers and workers is not a good idea. But, then we need to hear what is the good idea,” he said.