16/05/2018 12:07 SAST | Updated 16/05/2018 12:14 SAST

'Make Farming About Passion, Skill and Support – Not Race'

Zimbabwean politician Dr Simba Makoni says that South Africa can learn a lot from Zimbabwe’s failed reform – but must first "deracialise" the land debate.

Interviewed by HuffPost at the annual #NAMPO2018 agricultural trade show yesterday, one of the experts in the panel discussions on land said that South Africa could learn a lot from Zimbabwe in the pursuit of land expropriation without compensation.

Dr Simba Makoni is a Zimbabwean politician who was a candidate in the March 2008 presidential election against Robert Mugabe. Making reference to the Zimbabwean experience, Makoni has cautioned South Africa to "deracialise the land" to avoid going down the same path as Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe, according to Dr Makoni, did not have land reform. Instead, it had land acquisition.

The ANC adopted the land expropriation policy at its national conference at Nasrec in December last year, which experts at NAMPO2018 say has caused "uncertainty" in the agricultural sector among investors and commercial farmers — a sector that contributes greatly to the country's GDP.

Makoni advised that if South Africa is serious about land reform, we must do it soon: "Do not be like us. If the South African government is implementing land reform, they must do it quickly; do not wait 15 years like us."

Zimbabwe, according to Dr Makoni, did not have land reform. Instead, it had land acquisition, which was broken up into two parts — orderly and disorderly.

"In the first decade of independence, we acquired land on a willing buyer, willing seller basis," he said. Trouble started in the second phase, when people invaded farms. "As a reaction, government released the fast-tracked land reform programme."

It is not predetermined that South Africa should be where [Zimbabwe has] been...Dr Simba Makoni

Regarding "deracialising" the land, he said: "The land question is a black and white question, but the question we really need to engage on in South Africa is [how to] deracialise ownership. You can give a black farmer 1,000 hectares and a white farmer 20 hectares — what they do with the land is dependent on their skills and passion for the land."

South Africans' pursuit of the land has been seen by some as a threat to the democratic state, possibly turning South Africa "into another Zimbabwe". In response to these claims, Makoni said that nothing is inevitable.

"It is not predetermined that South Africa should be where we have been, but what is important is how you plan your process," he advised — confessing he is embarrassed to admit that "Zimbabwe's land reform was not planned for; therefore South Africa must take a [lesson] from us."