Zuma vows not to apply Zimbabwe style land reform in South Africa

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South African President Jacob Zuma says radical changes need to be effected to the nation’s “willing buyer, willing seller” model for land transactions but will not engage in Zimbabwe-style land seizures.

According to Zuma, there is a “general view” in his country among majority blacks that the current policy has not worked adequately.

The policy is meant to encourage white landowners to sell land to the country’s black majority.

Speaking in Johannesburg Thursday at the Black Management Forum’s constitution symposium, Zuma is quoted saying his government is working on a “much more pragmatic formula for land redistribution.”

But he said there would be no land invasions because any changes must be made within the law.

Zimbabwe’s government tackled a similar imbalance by confiscating land from white farmers beginning in 2000. Soon afterward, Zimbabwe’s economy went into steep decline, marked by food shortages and hyperinflation.

Said Zuma, “The general view is that the willing-buyer willing-seller model has not worked adequately thus far. We are working on a much more pragmatic formula to land redistribution”

“To meet this constitutional obligation, one of our priorities is to ensure that land reform through redistribution and restitution, is more coherently linked to the creation of livelihoods for the poor,” he added.

But Zuma’s changes, according to AgriSA president Johannes Möller, would be met with resistance. Moller is quoted saying it appeared that the government was the only institution in South Africa that did not believe in the free market.

While it was not clear what the government’s intentions were, Moller argued that, if paying fair market prices for land was the government’s intention “we are fine with it”. If it was not the case, commercial farmers would greet that “with the utmost resistance possible”.

However, South Africa has made firm commitments that it will not follow the same route as their neighbour Zimbabwe, where thousands of white commercial farmers were violently driven from their farms by President Robert Mugabe’s government.

South Africa’s government set an ambitious target of handing over 30 per cent of commercial farmland to black people by 2014.

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