It is two weeks before the 2019 National Elections in South Africa and depending on where you stand, you may be excited or anxious about the outcome. Land reform, expropriation without compensation and changes to Section 25 of the Constitution were all topics regularly mentioned by many parties competing in the build up to this election. The land issue, as part of South Africa’s history, and the transformation project, as part of South Africa’s future, remain as emotive and pressing as ever.

If one can tune out some of the noise generated by the upcoming elections, there has also been some very constructive and innovative thinking and action on land transformation happening in recent times.

Regular commentator on agriculture and land reform, Wandile Sihlobo, Chief Economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, recently stated in a Business Day opinion piece that land reform can only succeed if the correct support structures are in place. He calls for innovative solutions and approaches from government agencies to provide support to land beneficiaries.

From another perspective, Dr Theo de Jager, President of the World Farmers’ Association, stated in November 2018 that of a total of 64 countries, which in modern history attempted land reform, only 11 were successful. These 11 countries all had four basic building blocks in place which contributed to their success. De Jager listed these four factors as being:

  1. Special financing mechanisms for beneficiaries of land reform to become profitable farmers. This includes subsidised finance with longer than commercial repayment periods.
  2. The land owner class and landless class had to agree that land transformation is in the best interest of everyone.
  3. Officials managing the process managed to remain neutral.
  4. Post settlement support had to be in place to secure productive usage of land after transfer took place.

From a LREAD point of view, one can argue that Casidra is in a unique position to play a leading role in terms of innovative support, as requested by Sihlobo, and Casidra could also play a pivotal role in the four pillars for successful land reform, as described by De Jager.

The mere existence of the Land Reform Advisory Desk at Casidra is in itself a first step towards providing innovative land reform support. The Desk is currently facilitating and providing technical support to more than 40 clients on an annual basis.

Casidra, as a Western Cape State Owned Entity, is also ideally placed to contribute to the pillars for success, as described by De Jager:
Casidra could provide some of the financial support mentioned by De Jager. This can be done through partnership arrangements with established private sector financial institutions as well as state organs such as the Land Bank.

Casidra is perfectly placed to be the neutral partner or facilitator of a neutral meeting ground for role-players to plan and negotiate land transactions.
Fortunately Casidra is already integrally involved in post settlement support through the implementation work done for the Western Cape Department of Agriculture in its Farmer Support and Development Programme. This Programme was recently independently evaluated and was found to have a 72% success rate with post settlement support to land reform beneficiaries in the Western Cape.

The LREAD is looking forward to the election and then to be involved with the hard, but exciting work which lies ahead for the rest of 2019.

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