Stakes high for South African land reform
For those seeking to redistribute South Africa's rich farmland among landless, poor blacks, there is an uncomfortably close reminder of the dangers of getting this sensitive task wrong: Zimbabwe.
More than a decade after the end of apartheid, poor blacks in South Africa are still waiting for farms promised to them by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which sees land redistribution as a cornerstone of black majority rule, reported Reuters.
Farmers' groups say the delays are slowing investment in agriculture, stunting the sector's growth and hampering efforts to improve the lives of poor blacks, millions of whom still live in grim townships lacking basic services.
"It's a big issue, very serious, in other countries people have even died over these issues," said Motsepe Matlala, president of the National African Farmers' Union.
In Zimbabwe, about a dozen white farmers were shot dead and many others were beaten as war veterans violently seized white-owned commercial farms in 2000 as part of President Robert Mugabe's policy of land redistribution.
Critics say this policy ruined farming as many of the landless blacks had little or no experience in agriculture.
South Africa's target is ambitious: to hand over 30 percent of commercial farmland to blacks by 2014. With just six years to go, only 4 percent has been redistributed.
In August, the government shelved a controversial land bill, which would have given authorities wider powers to seize white-owned farms, after civic and farmers' groups branded it unconstitutional and a threat to farm investment.