Comments at CDE’s media briefing for the launch of the land reform document12 Feb 2013, by
Michael Spicer is chief executive officer of Business Leadership South Africa and a management committee member at Business Unity South Africa (BUSA).
He outlined key areas on how the private sector associations represented by him view the land reform process:
There is basic support for the thrust of the CDE’s analysis and recommendations on land reform. The private sector recognises the importance of refocusing the approach in a way that is more appropriate to South African realities (globalisation, urbanisation, and the relatively small contribution that the agricultural sector makes to the economy). Very importantly, targets should be achievable.
Poverty will not be mainly or even significantly alleviated in South Africa through land reform. Business is concerned about poverty and unemployment and is convinced that urbanisation is a positive process which creates opportunities and benefits for millions of people worldwide, and, that cities should therefore be managed more effectively. Recent protests in Free State towns, Port Elizabeth and around Cape Town underline the problems of not focusing on urban realities and the priorities of service delivery and accommodation. Which is not to say that rural land reform is not important, but should be kept in perspective.
Business is concerned about the current situation developing around land issues. Specific concerns relate to ever-expanding rural targets, limited capacity to deliver within provincial governments, rising expectations, rhetoric from critics as well as from government itself and the general sense that the process may be a failure. It is critically important that we do stick to the compromise around property rights in the constitution. It is important that intemperate language about white farmers or whites in general does not continue to grow.
The private sector contribution to land reform is important and can grow. The private sector contribution is underestimated and has not been adequately publicised. We have a strong land market that can assist with land redistribution and a vibrant, committed and willing private sector that wants to play a constructive role in sustainable land reform – both urban and rural – and is already doing so. Business, specifically in sectors such as sugar, cotton and timber have been working on successful land release programmes for some time as well as other aspects of agricultural reform. Provisions of the financial services sector black empowerment charter ensure that R1bn is available for agribusiness support, although this has not yet been defined.
Under the right circumstances the private sector is willing to do more and calls on government to refocus its approach and incentivize business involvement. This should focus on rural delivery (post settlement support) and very importantly on urban settlement and housing provision. We are in favour of serious discussions with the Minister of Housing and the Minister of Land Affairs, and at looking at the urban situation in more detail.
Spicer concluded by stating that he would support advocacy initiatives aimed at a refocused land reform programme – based on market principles – and which should encourage robust debate. Within this context Spicer was confident that business would signal at home and abroad that focused land reform was a key part of South Africa’s democratic settlement.
– Michael Spicer