The Pitfalls of Land Reform in South Africa

The resolution of the land question in South Africa is often touted as the solution to black frustration at the inequities of land ownership. For understandable reasons, I am in agreement that the issue has not been adequately addressed but it would certainly be wrong to suggest that this is a nirvana. Instead it could well be the road to perdition. 

In spite of a shining example on our northern border where agricultural production is now 10% of what it was 16 years ago, the ideologues and race baiters such as the EFF are impervious to the economic consequences of wholesale indiscriminate redistribution of land in South Africa. 

This blog reveals one instance where such a transfer led to disastrous consequences. 

Detachment is not option.

Main picture: Lukas Meyer, an employee who has not been paid for five months

Zimbabwe could well be a foretaste of the consequences of indiscriminate land redistribution. Exacerbating the situation in Zimbabwe was the fact that much of the land was allocated to Zanu PF potentates with no desire to farm the land but rather to use the property as a house in the countryside.

Even in those cases where the land was forcefully transferred to the farm workers, the consequences were equally as dire. Instead of continuing the existing farming operations in the same manner as the past, they merely sold the existing equipment, livestock and produce to generate cash. When this source of ready cash was exhausted, they reverted to what was instinctive to them: subsistence farming.

Amongst other ramifications was the loss of export earnings and the more catastrophic was the switch from being a net exporter of agricultural products to a net importer. Furthermore, with irrigation piping and pumps sold as scrap metal, the effect of the recent drought has been calamitous. Even where the infrastructure had not been sold, these farmers lacked the wherewithal in the form of cash to purchase diesel.

John Maluleka, one of the current empowerment owner

John Maluleka, one of the current empowerment owner


The ubiquity of this pattern of land usage should become a byword for what happens will ill-conceivable politically driven redistribution.

On the 11th December 2016, Rapport published an article which showcases the self-same tragic results except that on this occasion, the tragedy played out in Brakpan.

Instead of reading the translated article, one can merely read the executive summary produced by Blaine at the end of the blog.

Translated from Afrikaans:

In less than a year, six empowerment candidates devastated a once productive chicken farm near Brakpan by mismanagement and in the process they also let thousands of chickens cruelly die of hungry. 

In the process, more than 64 000 chickens either died or were simply sold out of hand.



The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform purchased the land, the assets, the chickens and all the vehicles of Tokheim Poultry last year from the previous owner, Gert Coetzer (86).

Several needy and aspirant farmers (not necessarily all were previously landowners) were entitled to apply for this piece of land. The six beneficiaries who were finally chosen, received the hatchery free from the state.

 ALL WE KNOW IS THAT THESE PEOPLE DESTROYED THIS PLACE COMPLTELY BY THEIR ACTIONS The farm was given to them with 34,000 laying hens. Within a few months, however, they had sold all the chickens for cash and used the money on pleasure, including sea holidays..The Department of Agriculture has since supplied another 30,000 chickens to them in the hope that money was available from the chickens that they sold in order to purchase food for the new chickens. Instead, most of the new chickens were sold, and the rest would eventually die of starvation. The six owners took ownership on 27 November last year. Less than a year later, on November 15 this year, the last of the 3,000 emaciated chickens were put down by the National SPCA (NSPCA). Colette Barnard , the NSPCA national farm animal inspector unit, said she happened by chance to come across this horrific scene. She was busy with a trainee inspector to show her the area, and coincidentally stopped at Tokheim Poultry. “It was horrible,” she said.  “Hundreds of chickens were already dead. There was at least one carcass per cage. The rest of the chickens were so emaciated, their feathers were falling, and there was no more breast meat left on their bodies. Some chickens were put on other chickens’ carcasses. The chickens that were still alive in their cages, were killed in their cages and still lie there. “ The 23 workers, many of whom live on the farm, stated that they were also hungry and refuse to clean up the stinking mess. They said they had been five months without pay. “We cannot even buy our children clothes for Christmas,” said Lukas Meyer, a manager for 12 years on the farm. Whisky Mohlala, who had already served seven years as a manager, simply shook his head because he could not even buy more bread for his family. “We were always in their service,” he said. “No one has been fired, but we have also not been paid. All we know is that the people of this place have destroyed it completely. “ When reporters wanted to ask John Maluleke (73), one of the six beneficiaries, about the situation he shut himself in his house, less than 20 m from the stinking store..“We have nothing to say to you, so f ***,” Maluleke Report snarled

One of the few tobacco farms which is still operational in Zimbabwe

One of the few tobacco farms which is still operational in Zimbabwe

Linda Page, spokesperson for the department of rural development and land reform, confirmed that there is an investigation in progress. “The department is disappointed by the unacceptable conduct of these empowerment candidates,” she said. “The department has already made an assessment and further action will be taken.” Coetzer, known by his neighbors called Tok, is distraught that a farm which he had built up over 45 years, has been devastated.“Large retailers like Shoprite and Spar monthly used to come & buy eggs from me. The income from Laying Unit each month ranged between R800 000 and R900 000, of which approximatelyR 500,000 had to be set aside to feed the chickens.  For a month after the new owners have taken over the business, he attempted to assist them because they did not even know how to open an account for chicken feed. However, they stubbornly insisted on working only with cash.

They also preferred to write all their invoices manually while there already was an employee who knew how to keep all information on the computer. “This is when I stopped offering my assistance,” said Coetzer. His son, Dr. Dirk Hermann, the general secretary of Solidarity, also pronounced himself this past week online about the “mismanagement”. “Three twenty-workers and their families are now lost their jobs,” said Hermann. “And thousands of chickens assigned to their deaths.”


The players are different but the parallels with the Zimbabwean experience are stark. Unless there is an apostasy by the politicians, this example will be only a mere foretaste or showcase – depending on one’s metaphor.



Executive Summary:


  • An egg-producing farm, Tokheim Pluimvee, was built up from nothing and run successfully for 45 years.
  • It comprised 34,000 hens producing a monthly turnover of R800-900k.  R500k had to be put back for hen food.
  • It was owned by an 86-year-old man – Gert Coetzer
  • The farm employed 23 workers, many of whom lived on the farm with their families.
  • Dept of Rural Development and Land Reform bought the complete farm as a going concern – systems, hens, land, vehicles, assets …
  • Applications were received from aspirant farmers and previously disadvantaged people.
  • The going concern was handed over to the chosen six, gratis and verniet.


Less than one year later, the farm was no longer a going concern when the SPCA destroyed the last suffering hens.


How did they manage that?


  • On receiving the farm, they proceeded to sell off all 34,000 hens for cash and partied etc.
  • The Dept sent in another 30,000 hens to replace them at no cost.  These went the same way.
  • They insisted on only using cash.
  • They insisted on writing all invoices by hand while there was a computer and a worker able to run it as previously.



Executive summary: Blaine McCleland


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