Land reform programme in a total mess

THE admission by parliament's standing committee on appropriation, that the only way the government will realise its 2014 target of distributing 30percent of prime agricultural land among blacks is by expropriation, is sobering indeed.

The country's land redistribution programme has been bogged down by intriguing factors that ordinarily could have been dealt with without much ado.

It is perplexing that 15 years after the dawn of our democracy only about 6percent of the government's target has been achieved.

Exorbitant land prices and a refusal on the part of white farmers to sell the land have been common features of land transactions, turning land reform into an expensive exercise for the government to undertake.

Some farmers have held the government to ransom by deliberately protracting land transfer negotiations and, by extension, determining the pace and cost of land reform.

Lest we forget, the government inherited one of the most skewed land reform patterns in the world, with whites owning 87percent of the land as opposed to 13percent in black hands.

So, in the context of our past, land reform is one of the ingredients of our common national reconciliation where we could all equitably share our country's wealth.

It's common cause then that 15 years on the land reform programme should be expedited to ensure that the agricultural sector remains at the core of our country's economic development.

I pray that the government stays resolute to invoke expropriation in cases where there is utter denial to sell land earmarked for land reform.

Percy Sepaela, Sunnyside