Opinion land ‘reform’ ends badly without intensive training and meticulous planning – sa breaking news

This is likely the way forward for South Africa in the long term since the government has taken serious steps to end private ownership of land. Recent developments may seem like a benign concession intended to help the poor, but history has shown over the past 200 and more years that these government policies always leave the poor in a worse off position.

The people of Russia and other Slavic nations, and many African nations struggle to this day because of these exact types of policies. Recently, Venezuela has tried to warn South Africans not to proceed with land expropriation because it leads to economic hardships, but politicians are about to get access to our land, and there seems to be nothing we can do to stop them.

In 2009, Venezuela began what South Africa is doing now, land grabs, but Venezuela’s situation only got worse and in a very short time. One problem Venezuela had at the outset was that it imported food rather than producing enough. It was believed that by getting land into government hands, it could then be given to the poor who would then grow more food. This sounds good in theory, but in practice, it is disastrous for many reasons.

Venezuela soon began buying even more food into the country than before. This sounds a lot like what has happened in Zimbabwe. Those with knowledge of history and foresight are worried about what is about to happen in South Africa. Experts even now feel that Venezuela is too far gone and a ‘lost cause’. Its poor are starving, and its labour skills have been drained as thousands have immigrated.

Among the reasons why Venezuela failed in this endeavour was poor planning and decision-making. Farming is a complex, labour-intensive, and often highly specialised affair. If you have ever lived on a farm you will know this. It’s not a matter of sending cows off to graze in a meadow and milk flows abundantly, or of throwing seeds on the ground and returning a few months later to reap piles of food.

Profitable or sustainable farming requires day and night vigilance, careful planning, intensive monitoring, and quick action at times to save cattle and crops. It often requires enormous investment which will not see a return for years, sometimes even decades, or it develops into very unfortunate and painful losses despite best efforts put in.

But the idea people have is that land access is a quick fix. Land somehow equates to wealth. This is not true. So much depends on what land and how it is cared for. Some land is not being used because it is unsuitable for farming, and thus people incorrectly think it is going to waste. Some is protected for wildlife – which we need far more than we think (for example, where do bees come from to pollinate our crops?).

Being given land, even with buildings on it, can even become a major burden. South Africa needs to do much more than simply give away land. We must very carefully prepare, select, train, and equip the right people to farm. Otherwise it will be disastrous. Not everyone is suited to the demands of farming or similar endeavours. We have a large urban population (65%) who is not actually keen on making a living that way.

They cannot sustain it, so they abandon it. Likewise, in many cases where people have won lavish homes, they cannot pay the electricity, water and taxes on the house and it also becomes a greater burden than their previous situation. Why not just sell it then? It’s not so simple. There isn’t always a market for it, and some laws bind a family to a property. Moving to a farm also makes great demands on individual families, sometimes ending in divorce as well as child labour.

This is not to say that poor people shouldn’t be helped, including with land ownership. But we must be smart about it and ensure it is not a sunken investment which leaves South Africans worse off. Start-up funding and skills are just as important, probably more so, than land ownership. It is more important that people be trained and that any endeavour be meticulously planned with the help of experts. Will this happen?

In the coming years, we could slip down to being one of the poorest nations in Africa, importing food at high prices, with unbearable inflation. The poor just surviving on handouts from richer nations, and a massive brain drain the like of which we have never seen before, leaving us bereft of enough people who can try to clean up the mess. This does, however, leave some politicians in a very powerful and comfy position.

If we think we as South Africans are somehow above such things, we are far too overconfident or naïve. What is perhaps most sad about this situation is that no independent banks means that we cannot conduct international trade. Online businesses will not be able to operate in such an environment. EFT payments are impossible, let alone forex trade, and what will we revert to? Cash and cheques perhaps, or some say cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which are not particularly safe options. The Internet has been opening up many opportunities for the unemployed youth, and we are giving those away before they really have a chance to establish themselves.