Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

South Africa agrarian reform and the risks for economy

The project of agrarian reform wanted by President Cyril Ramaphosa to "repair the injustices of the racist regime of apartheid" against the black community, was defended on September 11, 2018 in parliament by the head of state South African. This reform source of tension in the rainbow nation that involves the seizure of arable land controlled by the white minority for the benefit of the black majority lacks some concern, however, including the consequences it could have on the South African economy. Queries that take place when we know that the black minority who calls for the end of the inequalities on the distribution of land practices a modest agriculture of subsistence very often miserable contrary to the white farmers followers of a so-called commercial, industrialized agriculture and which for decades has contributed to the rise of the South African economy.


The agrarian reform does not date from today, it is an old promise of the ANC since the accession to power in 1994 of the leader of the fight against apartheid Nelson Mandela. The first black president of South Africa had set itself the goal of redistributing 30% of the fertile lands held by the white minority of the country which represent 8% of the population and holds 72% of the farms for the benefit of the Black minority, which 80% of the population and only 4% of the farms. But in Nelson Mandela’s time, the expropriation of land had to be accompanied by financial compensation to white farmers. This last point is not taken into account by the government of Cyril Ramaphosa who estimates that given the current situation, the 5 billion euros that the state should pay the owners stripped of their land may bleed the state coffers. Reason why he leaned on an expropriation of land without compensation. Hence the urgency of amending the Constitution to make expropriations legal without compensation. A measure that makes the white minority cringe or many claim that they did not steal these lands, but rather inherited them and in other cases bought.


Agriculture has a place of choice in the South African economy. This export sector, which contributes 3% of national GDP, is one of the most developed on the black continent. Agriculture in South Africa is a source of employment for 7% of the active population. It is very diverse and includes crops such as corn, wheat, grapes, vegetables and fruits, sorghum oats and barley. Nearly 94% of the total gross value of agricultural production is dedicated to the commercial sector, which is controlled by the white farming elite. This dynamism makes the rainbow nation a self-sufficient country for agricultural products. Only 13% of the land is arable because of the aridity of the soil. But thanks to the diversity of the climate and the setting up of a prestigious irrigation program and a series of agronomic researches, this country is today considered as the food basket of Africa. With a very dynamic agri-food industry, South Africa ranks third among the fruit exporting countries. It ranks sixth in maize production, its main crop, generating 150,000 jobs. A major wine producer, she is now sixth in the world. The country is also internationally renowned for the production of sugar and wool. All these assets have allowed South Africa to have a place of choice on the world market. The process of agrarian reform launched by the government raises concerns about a possible loss of productivity,



While the ANC-dominated House of Representatives supports the need for agrarian reform for economic growth, as it will raise the balance between the poor and the affluent, many white farmers see it as black clouds, a sign that a bad omen. The large areas of land left in the hands of the black subsistence farming population with no experience in producing agriculture could very quickly be abandoned and left fallow. . The land given to the blacks could not generate any profit if the new owners do not benefit from financial and technical means. They cite Zimbabwe, for example, where the forcible dispossession of thousands of white farmers in the country has plunged the Zimbabwean economy into an agony that it is struggling to recover from. Black community, the need to train new farmers here is needed.
South Africa has over the years developed its economic potential to the point of becoming one of the emerging countries of the planet. The country which saw in 1990 the tyrannical regime of apartheid being abolished in favor of a democratic regime concerned with the black cause, unfortunately has not yet finished thinking about the wounds of its segregationist past. The land question, which divides and generates heated debates, proves it clearly. Although President Cyril Ramaphosa is optimistic that land reform is imperative, the expropriation of land from the hands of white farmers to the benefit of the poor black majority who demand justice is a challenge for many. The South African leader should also look at the risk of seeing the shortcomings of this reform fall on the country’s economic growth. What would be regrettable then?

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