LREAD Perspective April 2017Casidra
Counting Transformation. April 2017 saw the appointment of a Service Provider by the LREAD to establish a Baseline of black land ownership for Western Cape. The need for such a baseline has already been voiced in 2014 during the Provincial Land Reform Summit, an initiative of Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, where he identified land reform, or the lack thereof, as a real risk to the provincial economy.
It logically flows from this that it is crucial to have a land reform reference point to work from and to be able to measure progress with land ownership transformation. Why did it take so long to get to this point? Part of the answer lays in our complicated past.
South Africa has a long history with a race based narrative. If you pick it up in 1652 with the arrival of the first Europeans in the Cape, it went from colonialism to Apartheid, where our entire society was arranged according to race. Where you could live, what job you could apply for. Your school; church, and hospital was chosen for you based on your race.
I grew up in the Western Cape countryside in the 1980’s. I remember park benches with “whites only” signs. At the doctor’s surgery there were two doors: “Whites only” and “Non-whites”. There were three high schools in our small town, in order to accommodate white, coloured and black kids separately. Even before Apartheid become the official policy of South African government, land ownership was to a large extend determined by the 1913 Land Act. Your race determined where you could hold cart and transport of land. White people: almost anywhere. Black people: in only a few pre-determined spots.
In an attempt to normalise race relationships, our first democratic government in 1994 started a process to do away with all race based legislation In South Africa. Black citizens could also for the first time purchase land and property anywhere in the country. And the Deeds Office no longer requested information on the race of buyers and sellers.
The colour blindness of the Deeds Office is ironically a huge challenge for today’s land reform practitioners. Government keeps track on the land restitution process, where people where afforded either money or land restored to them. We can also track official land reform projects where government purchased land through its various schemes such as Equity Share Schemes; LRAD, and the currently Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS).
But what about the private sector? How many black citizens are buying land, and where are they buying? These answers are locked up amongst thousands and thousands of property transactions registered at the Deeds Office. Your name, yes. Your race, no.
Media24 recently launched an initiative to grapple with this dilemma. A service provider, Agri Development Solutions (ADS), was appointed to go through all deeds registered since 1994, to try and put this puzzle together. The results have been very interesting, with data for the period 2010 to 2016 currently being analysed. It shows very active purchasing of land by black citizens, often motivated by people’s historic identification to specific regions in the country. According to ADS’s research, KZN is the leading province, with 63.4% of agricultural land in black ownership. The Western Cape has 3.6% black ownership, and nationally, 52.8% of agricultural land belongs to black citizens. A worrying trend identified by ADS is that commercial agricultural land, as percentage of non-urban land, has been decreasing from 85.1% in 1993 to only 61.4% in 2016. This is a red flag for food security.
So what is the LREAD’s project about? We are working to create a baseline of black land ownership for the Western Cape. This in itself sounds simpler than it actually is, as there are different types of ownership to consider as well as the matter of confidentiality of information, and we have to negotiate this for each role player.
We have decided to create different categories of ownership in order to be as inclusive as possible. These are:
- Government land reform projects, such as LRAD and PLAS
- Equity share schemes
- Church and community land
- Private individual transactions
- Other initiatives, such as joint ventures and partnerships where land ownership can be proven.
In terms of government projects, we are drawing data from various databases, which is then checked for duplicates and accuracy. Private sector data is sourced and compiled with the cooperation of Johann Bornman from ADS. We are also meeting with industry organisations and local municipalities in order to gather regional information not reflecting in other databases. So at the end there is no other way than to put in the hours and to do the hard work.
But if you reflect on how emotional the debate on land ownership and the proposed solutions to the situation currently is, we simply cannot afford to engage without facts, as the land ownership debate and how we address it has the potential to shape our country’s future in a fundamentally positive or negative way.