If the response of the minister for Rural Land Reform, Maite Mashabane, to a question tabled by Freedom Front leader Dr Pieter Groenewald MP was widely published, then distortion of the facts concerning land reform and ownership, which is serving to fuel emotions and populist agendas, would diminish.
Central to the highly-charged debate on the issue is the claim that whites still own 72% of agricultural holdings and that only four percent are in black hands. But as an analysis in Politcsweb on January 8 points out, those statistics are disingenuous because of the context in which they are presented.
The contrast of 72% to 4% holdings refers to individually owned, non-urban classes of land. As statistics they exclude all state-owned land, community-held former homeland territory and land privately purchased by blacks through trusts, companies and closed corporations.
The minister’s response noted that 12,1 million hectares had been transferred in terms of land restitution – 3,5 million directly to beneficiaries; 2,9 million concerned those who opted for financial compensation; 4,9 million acquired by the Government for distribution along with a further 822,388 hectares. What is missing from that statement is that, at the outset, the ANC inherited 16 million hectares of the former homeland territories.
Thus, the extent of land restitution and redistribution between 1994 and 2017, although pedestrian-paced, is actually greater than what is commonly believed.
Sent into The Mercury and published, 10 January 2019.