Black ownership of agricultural land has increased substantially since 1994

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Previously disadvantaged people now own 26‚7% of all farmland in South Africa. 
Image: Kasper Nymann via 123RF

The amount of agricultural land owned by previously disadvantaged people has increased substantially since 1994.

Consultants Agri Development Solutions (ADS) recently conducted a national audit of the transaction of agricultural land in South Africa from 1994 to 2016 in conjunction with agriculture body Agri SA and the magazine Landbouweekblad. The audit processed the information from the deeds office from 1994 to 2016.

In 1994 previously disadvantaged farmers owned about 14.5 million hectares (14.9%)‚ but it increased to 25 million (26.7%) in 2016.

In KwaZulu-Natal‚ the Eastern Cape and Gauteng‚ black land ownership has substantially improved since 1994 to 2016. In KZN it increased from 45.4% to 73.5%‚ the Eastern Cape 28% to 48.3% and in Gauteng from 0% to 39.1%.

Agri SA said more research needs to be done on why these provinces have achieved such increases‚ but ADS economist Johann Bornman believes it is because of the history of these provinces.

“If you look at the Western Cape and the Northern Cape‚ you will never get to a point where you have 40% restitution‚ because the concentration of the people of colour is in the eastern side of the country.”

South Africa is 122.5 million hectares in total. In 1994 the total agricultural land was 97 million hectares (79.2%)‚ but has since shrunk to 93.5 million hectares (76.3%) in 2016 due to urban development‚ mining and the extension of municipal boundaries.

Agri SA president Dan Kriek said: “We are very worried about it and I think South Africans should be worried about the mining versus agriculture debate … There will be more land lost.”

Agri SA predicts commercial farmers will feed about 80 million South Africans by 2035.

Agriculture currently employs about 670‚000 semi- and unskilled workers. According to Van Zyl there are about 34‚000 full-time farmers‚ 40‚000 tax-paying farmers and about 100‚000 emerging farmers in South Africa.

Van Zyl said if the government wants the private sector to help with land reform then farmers need to own the land.

“If government on their own is going to try and do this‚ they will not succeed‚” Van Zyl said.

“We believe that through the open market we can put the story on steroids. We believe that this is not possible without property rights or security of tenure.”

Agri SA agricultural economist Hamlet Hlomendlini believes government should step in to speak to tribal authorities.

“The difficultly is always that big elephant in the room which is the tribal chiefs which we always have to go through‚” Hlomendlini said.

“It is my feeling that they prevent any sort of developments that take place in the traditional areas.”

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