Debate on land continues unabated in South Africa

Dr. Pieter Mulder

“Nearly twenty years after the 1994 government change, the land debate is still one of the most emotional debates in South Africa,” Dr. Pieter Mulder, leader of the Freedom Front Plus and deputy minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries says.

Dr. Mulder addressed the Ad Hoc Group for the Protection of Property Rights’ conference about the Big Lie about Land Ownership in Muldersdrift and spoke in particular about commercial farming.

He said that land is the topic of heavy debates in South Africa every day. His experience is however that the majority of these debates are based on distorted myths about land.

“In the process, every participant has a couple of truths which are distorted and adapted to suite each one’s perspective. The only way to get to real answers in these debates is to carry out the debates with facts and not with emotions and propaganda” Dr. Mulder says.

The following facts should be taken into account when this issue is to be debated sensibly:

  • Increased government protection for the South African commercial agriculture and the more productive use of land is needed to prevent future famine in South Africa. This makes food security an important negotiating instrument against government in the hands of commercial farmers;
  • To be able to farm sustainably, various perceptions about land has to change. One of the most important ones, is that land automatically brings wealth;
  • The demands for the nationalisation of land and/or the unilateral expropriation of land should be combated in an organised manner with facts about the economy and famine implications;
  • The uncertainty about the important role that agriculture plays in South Africa should be cleared away as quickly as possible. Unambiguous government comments and decisions are needed for this. It could prevent agriculture from collapsing and too much expertise leaving the country;
  • South Africa consists of 122 million hectares of land. The land which could be used for really intensive agricultural crop cultivation, is however very limited. Only approximately 13% of South Africa’s total land is regarded as being high quality agricultural land;
  • Mining plays an important role in the economy of South Africa. But it has already resulted in an area equal in size to the National Kruger Park permanently being lost for the production of food and transport as a result of mining activities and urbanisation. Because land is not a renewable resource, it is extremely important that high quality agricultural land is protected against mining and other activities. For this, new measures and better coordination between different state departments are needed;
  • With a projected 70% of all South Africans being urbanised within the next decade, it will place extremely high pressure on the shrinking number of commercial farmers and on the de-populated rural areas to produce enough food for the growing population;
  • As the population and in the world and in South Africa increases, more food will have to be produced with less land. With new technology and research and the sharing of knowledge through training, it is possible and the current ceilings which exists on the production of food, can be broken. The requirement is however that it is done without polluting the environment any further with carbon dioxide or depleting the water resources of the earth;
  • A significant portion of South Africa’s population still does not enjoy food security. This hunger and malnutrition in South Africa has not been caused by a shortage of food as is the case in other countries. It has been caused by the poverty of certain members of our society who cannot afford the current  food prices.

“It is still going very well with many South African farmers. Yet, rising debt figures, smaller profits and the declining number of farmers all show that the red lights are starting to flicker,”  Dr. Mulder says.