“It is the best of times, it is the worst of times” – Tito Mboweni drew from the works of Charles Dickens to describe the state of South Africa during the Mid-Term budget speech. Inadvertently, he may have just summed up the land debate perfectly.
Whereas many South Africans welcome land expropriation, a significant proportion also fear it. A lack of clear and concise policy on the matter has even got the banks spooked. One person’s “Garden of Eden” is another’s game of “Russian Roulette“.
Mboweni’s speech, which has been described as “lacking” in clear-cut solutions, promised R5 billion more funding for South African Airways and another R16 billion going towards infrastructure. He then moved on to the land question, but unfortunately, stayed clear of expropriation.
The finance minister outlined how the government were going to “safeguard” the agricultural industry, which was rocked by a 29% decrease in productivity over the last financial quarter. The shock result shaved 0.8% off of South Africa’s total GDP. Mboweni explained how this sector would be boosted:
“Agriculture will be an important driver of our economic recovery. The Land Bank will continue to support emerging farmers. Our reprioritisation efforts will support the Bank to conclude transactions worth R16.2 billion over the next three-to-five years that will create jobs in agriculture.”
“A significant portion of the funding will go towards export-oriented crops that are highly labour intensive.”
Mboweni also highlighted that the Treasury was concerned about corruption in the provision of land rights, too. While discussing the future of VBS Bank – which he seemed to suggest would be salvaged – he also moved on to other areas corrupted by greed and vowed to keep an eye on land usage rights.
“The matter of VBS was ventilated in the house yesterday. But this is not the only case in which public funds have been diverted to benefit a few greedy individuals.”
“There are such many cases where projects are manufactured, contracts are awarded corruptly and construction costs are inflated, or where corrupt practices have taken hold in the provision of land use rights.”