While the media spotlight has just now begun to shift to South Africa in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s lambasting accusations of white genocide, those of us who have been following the African nation’s ‘Land Reform’ policy implementation have been watching the problems escalate for some time. The verdict?
South Africa’s Land Reform is a complete economic catastrophe, even absent growing (and still tenuous) evidence of racial violence. Let’s break it down.
Land Reform is South Africa’s attempt at reparation for decades of White dominated ‘Apartheid’. If you aren’t familiar with apartheid without going into depth I’d advise you just think of it as segregation with an even heavier dose of state-sanctioned violence that lasted all the way until 1994. So, it’s understandable that tensions still very much exist.
When apartheid finally came to deserved end roughly 90% of the land in South Africa was owned by White South Africans who didn’t even make up 10% of the population. Clearly Apartheid had sown a glaring economic inequality and the new majority black government led by Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) was determined to reverse it, initiating a series of heavy handed redistributive policies generally referred to under the blanket of ‘Land Reform’.
And while white people now only own 23.6 percent of the nation’s farmland might imply the policy is working as intended according the UK’s Independent that number drastically expands to 73% when private firms and company’s capital ownership is taken into account.
The problem plain and simple is the reforms are not working. The heavy-handed state intervention is proving (as planned economies so often do) to be a disaster for the country’s economy and agricultural output.
This isn’t because Land Reform lack legitimacy. Backed by international institutions such as the IMF and proceeding within the bounds of a constitution that is now in the process of even more land reform alterations, Land Reform isn’t ‘illegal’… it’s just terrible.
The crux of the crisis is in its concept. The Government seizes land from white farmers and distributes it to black recipients as reparation, and in turn hires the evicted and/or smaller plotted white farmer to teach the new beneficiaries how to farm.
Yes. South Africa takes land from farmers, gives it to people who can’t farm, and then asks the farmers to fix the created problem. You might be starting to see the problem.
It doesn’t take advanced analytics or inside knowledge to see that South Africa’s reforms are collapsing. According to the Economist, 70% of redistributed land lays fallow. For those of you who don’t farm for a living (and avoided wasting hours of their life on Farmville) ‘fallow’ means not in use even though it totally could be if someone with the proper knowhow was working it.
Gerrit Roos, a 48 year old farmer still hanging onto his 7500 acres explained to FarmFutures (an agricultural market centric outlet) explained, “The government gives land to blacks and gets a white farmer to teach them to farm, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” Roos says. “The new owner is often unprepared for the capital and equipment needed to farm the land; within a year or two the land ends up back in government hands and the original farmer buys it at a discount.” Roos then explained how, even avoiding direct confiscation, he was still suffering from the reform as investors and banks refuse to lend to farmers who could lose the barn any day.
With the world turning its head to South Africa in search of potential ethnic violence, hopefully at least some take in the lessons of the definite folly of Land Reform.