The AgriSA Land Audit
AgriSA made public its much anticipated South African Land Audit this month. A lot has been said about agricultural land ownership in South Africa, but no credible statistics have been available to back up the various claims. The AgriSA Land Audit, done together with Media24 and economist Johann Bornman of Agri Development Solutions, is an attempt to provide accurate statistics and numbers to work with. As part of their investigation, individual agricultural land transactions from 1994 to 2016, as registered at the Deeds Office, were checked and verified. Racial profiling was done through a surname check. This work is of great interest to the Land Reform Advisory Desk, as we are working on a similar project with a Western Cape focus.
The AgriSA Audit come up with very interesting findings. These include:
- In 1994, white farmers owned 82.5 million hectares of land, and black people, together with government, owned 14.5 million hectares.
- In 2016, the above numbers changed to 68.5 million for white farmers, and 25 million hectares for black farmers and government.
- This translates to black farmer land ownership of 26.7% of our total farm land.
- Black farmers now control 29.1% of farm land by value.
- Black farmers control 46.5% of farm land from a land potential perspective.
- During the period from 1994 to 2016, total agricultural land decreased from 79.3% of our land surface to 76.3% of land surface. According to the report this is of concern from a food security perspective.
- KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape are the provinces with the most significant land transformation since 1994.
- In KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, the nation’s most fertile areas, more than half of agricultural land, according to potential, is now owned by black people.
- The Western Cape’s statistics show black ownership change from 0% in 1994, growing to just below 5% in 2016.
- The Report indicates that transformation of agricultural land through private commercial transactions resulted in twice the number of hectares transferred, when compared to the official government land redistribution programmes since 1994. In essence this means that black people who bought land is driving land transformation, and not government programmes. AgriSA uses this finding as support for their argument that the market system and the principle of willing buyer willing seller is working to achieve the desired land transformation outcomes.
But not everyone is in agreement on the effectiveness of the market based approach. Professor Ruth Hall, from the Institute of Poverty and Land Studies at the University of the Western Cape, says that the Land Audit’s findings actually proves the opposite. According to her it indicates that Government, and black people, have paid too much for land, and that the willing buyer willing seller principle is not delivering value for money in terms of transformation.
At the time of writing this Perspective, the LREAD could not find any published response; comment, or reaction from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform on the AgriSA land audit. This absence, from a debate it should be leading, is in itself a source of great concern.