South Africa May Seize Land from White Farmers

Article excerpt

South Africa's 50,000 white farmers are threatened with forced land expropriation after a government land summit called for a 'fast- track' programme of redistribution.

The weekend summit was convened by the government to review the slow pace of land reform in South Africa. Significantly, it rejected the market- based willing buyer/willing seller policy as the basis on which redistribution must proceed.

The South African government has set a target of voluntarily transferring 30 per cent of productive farmland from whites to previously disadvantaged blacks by 2014.

But President Thabo Mbeki's government is worried the target will not be met, at the very slow rate at which white farmers are offering land for sale. It also claims farmers are asking for unjustifiably high prices.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told the summit the willing buyer/willing seller scheme, through which farmers voluntarily offer their properties to government at market prices, was a major drawback to land reform and said South Africa would embark on a 'fast-track' programme to meet targets.

She was backed by Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Angela Thoko Didiza who said the government should strongly intervene to ensure expeditious redistribution.

Details of the suggested 'fast-track' are yet to be spelt out but the decision has been welcomed by campaigners for the landless poor. 'We want this process to begin immediately,' said Mangaliso Kubheka, national organiser for the Landless People's Movement. 'We're waiting to see if the pledge will be implemented. The people have spoken. We need to see if the government will listen.'

But white farmers and the mainly white official opposition Democratic Alliance are angry over the spectre of forced expropriations, which have echoes of President Robert Mugabe's land reforms.

They have dismissed the government's complaints as an 'election strategy,' ahead of local government elections later this year. …