Liberalisation Failed to De-Racialise Agricultural Production

Cape Times (South Africa), July 16, 2014 | Go to article overview

Liberalisation Failed to De-Racialise Agricultural Production


THE slow pace in land reform is frequently attributed to the property clause in the constitution. In fact, the property clause could just as well have been called the expropriation clause. It clearly stipulates the conditions under which the government can (indeed should) expropriate in the public interest (including specifically for land reform).

While compensation is required, you won't find the "willing-buyer, willing-seller" principle anywhere in the constitution. Market value is merely one among several factors for consideration.

Misreading the constitution is a red herring when it comes to understanding weaknesses in land reform. Missing is a critique of the impact of liberalisation on the agriculture sector. Liberalisation was begun by the apartheid regime in the 1980s and, unfortunately, carried forward after 1994.

Through the 20th century, a comprehensive support system for white farmers had been established - a Land and Agriculture Bank Act, Co-operative Societies Acts, the Marketing Act of 1937, and so on. These ensured a range of supportive measures to white farmers, including credit extension and loan finance through co-ops, the securing of input supplies and marketing services.

After 1994, agricultural liberalisation was accelerated, marketing boards were abolished and there was a drastic cutback in state spending on veterinary services and research. The new ANC government assumed the market would ensure efficient outcomes, and liberalisation would help to de-racialise the countryside, removing the props supporting pampered white farmers. Liberalisation would, so to speak, "kill the boer".

In a sense, it did. The number of farmers fell by about 25 percent from 1996 to 2009, with the consolidation into larger farms at higher levels of mechanisation.

This decline in farmers masks an even steeper reduction in the number of productive farms, with many converted into game "farms" and tourist lodges. The decline in dairy farming has been particularly dramatic. In 2000, there were about 7 000 dairy farms in South Africa. …

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Liberalisation Failed to De-Racialise Agricultural Production
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