SA Land Grab

PRETORIA. Recent calls for the constitution to be changed to speed up land reform have found strong support from conservationists who say South Africa’s land restitution programme has already turned millions of acres of farm into pristine bush. Meanwhile tourists are enjoying Small Five game drives around ruined farms, spotting majestic herds of rats and mosquitoes.
According to a recent report to Parliament, 90 percent of the farms handed over to new owners under the land reform programme had “fallen into disrepair”, a technical agricultural term referring to a process whereby combine harvesters, sheds, dipping pens and arable fields are turned into rusty mulch by the action of wind, rain and theft.
Asked why farms were being abandoned or destroyed while South Africa remained a net importer of food, a ministerial spokesman confessed that he thought “net importer” had something to do with importing nets and had ignored all correspondence about it for the last ten years.
President Jacob Zuma has been at pains to deny that South Africa will use illegal land-grabs to put black farmers to work, but this morning a spokesman explained that “illegal is relative”.
“Yes, land-grabs are absolutely illegal and we will never condone them,” said Presidency spokesman Vacillations Mpofu. “Until we change the constitution to make them legal. Then we’ll probably condone them.”
However conservationists said that the changes couldn’t come soon enough.
According to Leif Green-Sprout of the World Wildlife Fund, redistributed farms were turning into priceless habitats for South Africa’s less well-known wildlife, to be branded by the eco-tourism industry as “the Small Five”: rats, pigeons, cockroaches, mosquitoes and maggots.
He said that tour operators were already taking international visitors on Small Five game drives around trashed farms.
“The gutted milking shed is fantastic for spotting cockroaches,” he said. “Although we ask visitors not to feed them otherwise they get aggressive and have to be shot.
“Then after a light lunch it’s down to the fields where they used to plant maize before we started importing it from the United States. Today it’s just rats and pigeons as far as the eye can see.
“It’s like the Serengeti. Except obviously a lot smaller. And it smells of burnt rubber and raw sewerage.”
He said sunset drives were also popular.
“In that magic hour just before it gets dark, that’s when you hear the mosquitoes. They’re so regal, rising up in great big clouds out of the pond scum at the edge of broken reservoirs.”
He said maggots were the most elusive of the Small Five, but said that some tourists still “hit the jackpot” from time to time.
“Sometimes when the nationalising of the livestock hasn’t gone as smoothly as planned you find half a sheep, or a quarter of a sheep, or sometimes just a nondescript chunk of sheep stuck to a fence-post, and that’s when you might get lucky and see ten- or twelve thousand of the secretive little guys.”
The Ministry of Agriculture was not available for comment as senior staff were on the phone to their brokers, buying shares in US grain exporters.


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