Who owns which SA land: exact details:
October 5 2004 - Marleen Smith of the Landbouweekblad (msmith) reports this week that great confusion exists among South Africa's (rapidly shrinking) commercial agricultural community about the government's black economic empowerment programme regarding the redistribution of farm land, it's so-called Agri-BEE policy document tabled last month.
The key questions among the country's (then) 35,000 (editor's insert, now 25,000), remaining commercial (Afrikaner) farmers are - exactly how much land is available and suitable for farmland-redistribution; What is this land's real agri-potential and future viability; Who actually owns this land; and exactly how much land still needs to be handed out to black communities and for what purpose?
At a recent farming congress in Bloemfontein, there were many more questions than answers to the fuzzy Agri-BEE document introduced by the minister of land and agricultural affairs.
One fact was made abundantly clear in the Agri-BEE document, namely that white farmers were not opposed in principle to the concept of land redistribution, according to Agri-South Africa, the South African farmers' lobby which is cooperating with the government. What bothers the farmers however is that there are no clear guidelines on exactly which and how much land must be redistributed.
The government bandies about merely with percentages without being specific, saying that it wants "30% of ALL agricultural land redistributed by 2014.
The Agri-BEE framework also wants an extral 20% of all high-potential agricultural land "leased to black farmers by 2014". This means that a full 50% of the present commercial farm land would be lost.
However commercial farmers don't know which land sites the government is talking about and exactly how much agricultural land is actually still viable enough to do this with anyway.
In debates about land rights there are these constant claims being bandied about by the ANC-regime that "whites, representing 11% of the population, own 87 % of all the land in South Africa."
The inaccuracy of these statistics was determined by the government's own commissioned report, carried out by the South African Institute for Race Relations in 1991/92.
77-million hectares of farm land owned by 66,000 "white" farmers in 1990.
This recent research found that up to and including 1990, about 66,000 "white" (i.e. mostly Afrikaner) farmers were occupying 77-million hectares of total land surface. And some 10% of this land was not owned by the farmers: it was being leased from the State.
That fact is a very far cry from the ANC's claim in 2004 that 'whites still own 87% of South Africa's land'.
They completely omit to mention that the State is a major landowner, and that people of other races also own/permanently occupy farmland in South Africa: 515,000ha farmland owned by Asians/Coloureds in 1991.
Also in the SA Institute for Race Relations' 1991/92 report, about 22,000 Asians and people of colour owned and farmed on 515,000ha of land. "People of colour", especially the Griqua-Afrikaans speaking groups in the northern Cape, farmed on commons which were owned by their local church groups 157,000-ha farmland owned by black farmers in 1991 outside autonomic homelands.
In addition, black small-farmers owned 157,000-hectares of farmland outside the former homelands in 1991/2, with the vast majority of these black farmers being communal farmers occupying state land. 15,7-m hectares owned by black homeland farmers 25-m ha. owned by State of 16-million ha. lies fallow.
It is important to note that in 1991/92, a full 25-million hectares of South Africa's total land surface of 1,219,912 square kilometres was actually owned by the State.
South Africa's total irrigated land surface was 13,500 sq km in 1998 out of the country's total surface area of 1,219,912 sq km.
It's important to note that only 0.79% was being cropped permanently in 2004 and that the total capacity for arable land is only 12.13% for all of South Africa - and that includes large areas of marginal land such as the semi-arid Karoo and Northern Cape.
And of South Africa's very arid total land surface, only 3 % has "permanent high-agricultural potential" where farmers could always produce excess food productively.
All these above-mentioned facts are a very far cry from the ANC's grossly inaccurate but persistent claims that '87% of the land is owned by white farmers"...
According to the CIA satellite surveillance photographs in 2003, only about 7% of South Africa's total land surface was actually being used for crop-growing - dryland and irrigated. A full 87.13% of the total SA land surface was used for purposes "other than farming" in 2001.
Sources: CIA World Factbook, December 2003; FAO; United Nations World Statistics Pocketbook and Statistical Yearbook; Health The World Foundation.
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It is important to note that in 1991/92, a full 25-million hectares of South Africa's total land surface of 1,219,912 square kilometres (about twice the size of Texas) was actually owned by the central State - and that much of this land is being speculated with by government officials.This State-owned land is in addition to the 15,7-million hectares of the former homelands and trust lands which were also taken over by the central State in 1994.
This fact was determined in government-funded research for the national agriculture department in 2001.
Prof. Frans Swanepoel was in charge of this research programme as director of research development at the University of the Free State. The rest of the team members were Agnes Nyamande-Pitso, Prof. Edward Nesamvuni, Almero de Lange and Aldo Stroebel. Of this 25-million hectares of state-land, (i.e. excluding the homelands) only about 9-million is being used for non-agricultural purposes such as the military and national parks.
(*The rest seems to be for the most part, disused and fallow land sites in urban areas, such as former railway properties -- and much of it is being widely speculated with by government officials who run the state-company PROPNET. Recent objections about this were raised by the ANC-affiliated evangelical activists' group Jubilee-2000 in East London, chaired by Berend Schuitema.)
State-land farming is mostly communal, undertaken primarily in the former independent homelands it was found -- a total of 15,5 million hectares, plus the 1,2-m hectares which had been held in trust for homeland consolidation prior to 1994.
The agricultural department's own researchers urge that especially the trust-land owned by the State be urgently redistributed to create a new generation of commercial black farming entrepreneurs. The Eastern Cape, pressed by Jubilee-2000's activism, has started such a programme recently.
The big question in the commercial farming community is whether the former black homelands -- now owned by the central government -- were actually included in the government's 30% "redistribution target" or not.
According to the Agri-BEE framework 30% of all agricultural land must be occupied by black farmers by 2014. If the former homelands, already occupied by black families who are mainly eking out a subsistence living, are kept out of this equation, this would mean that a full 23-million hectares of commercial farm land would be lost to commercial agriculture under the land-redistribution programme (remember: 77-million hectares was owned by 66,000 'white' farmers in 1991/92). If the former homelands are included in the Agri-BEE target, the acreage to be transferred from commercial white farmers would however be 11 million hectares.
The agricultural department's researchers painted a rosy arcadian picture of what they wanted to achieve: ... "so that about every third farm in any farming region one drove through, would be owned by blacks."
This report also pointed out that in South Africa's communal areas, black farmers owned 38% of the country's total cattle-stock and that a full one-third of South Africa's tea production came from the former homeland-region in the Lusikisiki-area.
(The latter is no longer applicable: the Sapekoe tea company which produces 90% of all of the country's 10-million tons of tea and buys up large quantities from black small-farmers, announced on October 3 2004 that it was closing down because of the government's land-reform policies. A full 10,000 Sapekoe workers were immediately put on unpaid leave).
Large portions of SA's communal farming areas also are very under-utilised: they have always had great agricultural potential but are not being exploited, the report has found.
In most of the communal farming areas ( in the former homelands) ...
"Farmers often plow and replow the same soil without the proper implements, creating an impenetrable layer of land which makes dryland-maize production impossible. "Large portions of (former homelands) which used to be very fertile for crop-production are now not farmed at all. "The reasons for this are a shortage of labour because family members migrate to work far from home; or the high expense of production or lack of access to mechanisation."
Provincial agricultural departments especially in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, KZN and North West spend large portions of their budgets and manpower on promoting agricultural production in communal areas.
However new approaches about land-use in the communal sector certainly are needed, the report has urged.
It points to several cooperative projects in Limpopo province between commercial and communal farming communities to try and solve the problem of underproduction in the former homelands and trust areas.
Many agricultural officials doubt such a concept would work, however - claiming that that there "aren't too many non-farmers who are farming 'opportunistically'on communal land.
Other officials felt that communal models for Black Economic Empowerment did not work in agriculture because of the opposing interests of both parties. "There should be focus on individual empowerment instead of communal to assure the establishment of a black farming class," these officials had recommended.
South Africa's agricultural potential must also be taken into strong consideration when black economic empowerment is brought into agriculture.The Agri-BEE framework also wants a full 20% of all high-potential agricultural land "leased to black farmers by 2014".
This is a requirement in ADDITION to the 30% which has to be handed over to black farmers.
However according to the internationally-accepted classification system of land surfaces, (Klingbiel & Montgomery) land is divided into eight classes of usage ability. This takes important factors into consideration such as land erosion, climate, and the physical landscape restrictions.
According to this system, a total of 95% of South Africa's total land surface suffers from severe agricultural restrictions as far as precipitation, terrain and soil type are concerned.
While some 21% (about one-fifth) of the country's surface is viewed as officially "reasonably suitable for agriculture", a full 13% is only marginal land just barely suitable for only limited agricultural activities such as in the Karoo and the Northern Cape.
24 September 2004 Landbouweekblad