Is the land therefore a means to an end?

The South African government has spent a fortune trying to redistribute the country’s land wealth from the white minority to the black majority.

It has bought thousands of hectares of white owned farm land and either given it or sold it on to poor blacks.

However, many of the new black farmers have simply resold the land back to the original  owners.

According to Gugile Nkwinti, the former Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, black farmers have resold nearly 30 per cent of the white farmland bought for them by the government.

He said: ‘The government bought land and handed it over to aspirant farmers who then sold it again, in many instances back to the original owner.’

Land economists say that the redistribution policy is highly inefficient as the white-owned land is often bought at above its market value by the government.

After the land has been given, or sold at a discount, to the new black owner, he is able to simply then able to sell it on.

This means that both farmers – black and white – are able to turn a profit from the government’s involvement.

After black majority rule was won in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) government set a goal of redistributing 30 per cent of agricultural land to blacks by 2014.

However, so far it has managed to buy and successfully redistribute just two per cent of the country’s land.

The problem is hugely emotional in South Africa, where the majority of black people still live in poverty, despite 17 years of black rule.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s government tried to solve the same problem by forcibly evicting around 5,000 white farmers from their farmland.

Even though Zimbabwe’s policy has been an unmitigated economic disaster, some influential politicians in South Africa have advocated doing the same.

Addressing the problem, Mr Nkwinti said: ‘In our country we wanted to solve it yesterday.

‘That’s not possible. So we think it’s going to take a bit of time and it will require patience.’

Studies of the South African model have shown that as many as 90 per cent of the new black-run farms fail because the new owners do not have the experience of running a large enterprise.

Although whites make up less than 10 per cent of South Africa’s population of 50 million, they own about 90 per cent of the country’s agricultural land.

Advocates for reform argue that this massive inequality is a direct result of the colonisation of South Africa by Europeans and the consequent forcing of indigenous people of their land.