‘Racist’ Book Threatens Agricultural Relations
iafrica.com, Feb. 13
A new book criticising government land reform threatens to strain relations between the government, farmers and agricultural unions, the land affairs department said on Thursday.
“In fact if this book gets out into the general populous I can see racial outbreaks developing between blacks and whites,” said chief land claims commissioner Tozi Gwanya.
He described the book as “a piece of racist literature that would surely anger any black reader”.
“I fear the repercussions of this book”
“Basically what it says is that blacks are useless farmers and whites should remain in possession of 87 percent of the land. I fear the repercussions of this book.”
At the launch of the book, “The Great South African Land Scandal”, in Pretoria on Thursday, publisher Philip du Toit said he hoped it would “inform the broader public about the slow cancer infecting commercial agriculture in South Africa”.
The book claims that recent amendments to the 1994 Restitution of Land Rights Act paved the way for the land affairs minister to “expropriate land at will”.
Despite promises by government that this would not happen, Du Toit said, land seizures in Zimbabwe started off exactly the same way in 1991.
“South Africa will harvest its lowest maize crop in 60 years, while preliminary areas planted for next season are the lowest since the 1939/40 season,” he said.
Drought coupled with poor land redistribution tactics would leave South Africa and the rest of the continent in dire straits.
Book described as dubious
The Department of Land Affairs described the book as “very dubious”, saying it sought to undermine land reform gains made by the government
According to deputy agriculture minister Dirk du Toit, “the sweeping statements and generalisations in the book are intolerable. Conclusions were reached without any apparent attempt to apply comparative formulae and no contrast of negatives and positives was done”.
Philip du Toit would use the findings of the book in an address to a conference on Africa in the United States next week.
Foreign charities accused of promoting famine
The book accuses foreign charity organisations of pushing Africa into a continental famine by removing experienced farmers.
“We know for a fact that overseas governments are funding land claimant activists in South Africa and are enticing them to violence and hate speech,” Du Toit said.
He cited British charity organisations Oxfam and War on Want as examples, claiming the latter has been blamed for creating the Landless Peoples’ Movement (LPM), “whose leader recently called for South African farmers to be killed”.
Du Toit claimed that these organisations have been asked to stop funding the LPM following new British anti-terrorism legislation forbidding all forms of violence and race hatred.
British High Commission spokesperson Nick Sheppard said he was not aware of such claims. If true, the matter would be probed by the Charity Commission in England and not the government.
LPM national organiser Mangaliso Kubheki acknowledged the body was funded by Oxfam and War on Want.
“I have never uttered any inflammatory statement demanding the death of farmers. What I have said is that landless people must protect themselves from farmers if government won’t do it. How can farmers feed human beings to lions and then not expect repercussions,” he asked angrily.
Agri SA not consulted on book’s contents
The book was based on information gathered by “qualified researchers” who visited farms handed over by the government to formerly disadvantaged people.
Not one of these farms was able to sustain itself, the book claims.
But deputy land affairs director-general Glen Thomas said the book did not provide an accurate picture.
“It appears that only the farming projects that had failed, had been selected as examples.” He invited Du Toit to accompany him on a tour of the success stories.
Farming unions Agri SA and the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) agreed on the need of a more structured redistribution policy.
But Lourie Bosman, deputy president of Agri SA, said the body did not support all the views in the book, and was not consulted on its contents.