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April 15, 2009

Mob invades major land reform project in South Africa

by Michael Georgy

An armed mob has invaded a major land reform project in South Africa, a local newspaper reported on April 15. The mob, armed with knives and machetes, seized control of the farm, the country's biggest land restitution project by value, a newspaper reported.

It is one of several farms handed back to four communities who lost their land under apartheid legislation. Business Day said the invaders were unhappy with the progress of the project, despite warnings that it would take up to three years before a return from what had been badly neglected farms.

The incident in the eastern Mpumalanga province occurred last Thursday.

Land reform is a sensitive issue in Africa's biggest economy, where critics say the program has hurt investment in the commercial farming sector and drastically reduced the land that is available for commercial agriculture.

There are also fears that South Africa's land program could mirror a similar "fast track" program that damaged farming output and triggered an economic slump in neighboring Zimbabwe, where white commercial farmers were often violently evicted by President Robert Mugabe's government.

After the fall of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress, which is widely expected to win a general election this month, set itself a target of handing 30 percent of all agricultural land to the black majority by 2014.


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