The success of colonial and apartheid farming in South Africa a myth: Angelo Fick

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It is a myth that colonial and apartheid farming in South Africa was successful, says Political Analyst and Director of Research at ASRI, Angelo Fick. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the African National Congress (ANC)’s National Policy Conference currently underway at the Johannesburg Expo Centre in Nasrec, Fick says the party needs to address the issue of land reform during the policy conference.  

He says it is no longer a tenable position for the government to regard as untouchable the thorny issue of land reform, which has largely become lip service.   

“There were records of spectacular failure,” says Fick.

“Land reform is absolutely needed and for a variety of reasons. Put the economic reasons aside, all the people of South Africa need to have a sense of belonging. And you can’t have a sense of belonging if your tenure on the land is threatened by people who own it, who have the power to remove you from it or the people who administer it on behalf of the state can remove you as traditional authorities,” he says. 

Fick says, “It is important to bear in mind that the historical record that colonial and apartheid left a legacy of indebtedness. The cultural records of how apartheid and colonial writers, wrote about, painted and made films and television series about that experience and it wasn’t a rosy experience … text exists … television series of apartheid years are all about failed farms.”

He argues that “to reimagine a post-apartheid farm as somehow an essential tool for the success of the food project is also to ignore what the global literature tells us.”

Fick says if South Africa is going to implement land reform and land restitution policy it needs to be supported by programs that will also help the people who take occupation of that land to be productive with it. 

“And I don’t just mean grow food. Productive on that land in ways that serve them and their needs beyond merely being in possession of it.” 

President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier addresses delegates at the 6th national policy conference, encouraging everyone to treat the event as a festival of ideas for the advancement of the country.  

Fick says it needs to be more than just a festival of ideas but also a contestation of ideas, adding, however, that the last two decades have seen the “thinning of the intellectual component” of the party. 

Fick says the policy discussions taking place among ANC delegates this week need to be in touch with the lived realities of the people.