Mob invades major land reform project in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – An armed mob has invaded a major land reform project in South Africa, a local newspaper reported on Wednesday.\r\n

The mob, armed with knives and machetes, seized control of the farm, the country’s biggest land restitution project by value, Business Day said.

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 programme 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 programme could mirror a similar "fast track" programme that damaged farming output and triggered an economic slump in neighbouring 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.