Government holds the key to land reform

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga’s provincial government is ideally placed to contribute significantly to land reform in the province, provided it does so with careful planning and effective management and skills transfer initiatives.

According to media reports, the recently conducted land audit by the chief surveyor general Mmuso Riba shows that 25% of all land in Mpumalanga is government owned, and that 13% lies unaccounted for, despite premier David Mabuza’s insistence last week that government knows how much land it owns and where it is.

In a province that is predominately rural, government needs to take bold steps to stimulate economic development, by not just restoring people to the land, but to make sure that the land is used productively.

To date government has spent more than a billion rand on land reform and restitution initiatives, however many of the once productive tracts of land has collapsed as beneficiaries are not provided with the necessary skills and support to maintain commercial viability. While some financial assistance is provided, beneficiaries are at an automatic disadvantage purely because they lack the capacity to make the land work for them.

Furthermore, more than a million of Mpumalanga’s people live on thousands of hectares of land locked in communal trusts, and are unable to attain a title deed for land on which they have lived for decades. As a result, such persons are often doomed to life of poverty, as they cannot use the land to raise capital to start a business, or fund their children’s education, or to improve the quality of their lives.

If government is serious about rural development this system must be reviewed and reformed to give as many citizens as possible a title deed for the land on which they live, so they can raise capital to boost their  entrepreneurial spirit and for farmers to become commercially viable.

Government should lead by example and instead of hoarding the land, a DA government will speed up land reform and give emergent farmers the support they need to be successful, by identifying state owned land not needed for core service delivery and make it available to empower the poor.