Land reform: The World Bank finally sees the light.

Author:Ankomah, Baffour
Position:In Depth

A new report by the World Bank, virtually ignored by the international media, categorically comes out in favour of comprehensive land reform in South Africa as the only means of reducing income disparities and promoting social cohesion. This is in stark contrast to a similar situation in Zimbabwe in 2000 when the Bank and Western nations punished the Southern African country for attempting to take back its land.

After nearly 20 years of opposing land reform in Zimbabwe and supporting stiff economic sanctions on the Southern African country, including the infamous denial of credit and debt postponement in March 2006, the World Bank has finally seen the light and is supporting land reform in South Africa, including even land expropriation without compensation.

In a landmark report, the World Bank says "South Africa has come a long way since the advent of democracy, but its transition remains incomplete" because "the highly skewed distribution of land and productive assets is a source of inequality and social fragility, fuelling contestation over resources."

On 30 April this year, the World Bank released a 147-page report titled An Incomplete Transition: Overcoming the legacy of exclusion in South Africa, which endorsed the South African government's view contained in its 1994 Reconstruction and Development Programme (which it also quoted in the 2012 National Development Plan) that: "No political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty, without land, without tangible prospects for a better life. Attacking poverty and deprivation must therefore be the first priority of a democratic government."

The contents of the report are so revolutionary and so contrary to what the Western world and the multilateral financial institutions they control did against Zimbabwe on account of its land reform programme, which started in 2000, that the West's major TV channels and newspapers that were at the forefront of the propaganda war against Zimbabwe have refused to publish the report--except for the right-wing American TV channel, One American News Network (referred to as OAN).

On 30 April, when the report came out, the OAN, in line with its right-wing views, ran a story criticising the World Bank for "controversially" supporting an "anti-White" land-expropriation-without-compensation programme in South Africa that, according to OAN-quoted sources, would lead to "White genocide" in that country.

So far, that has been about the only story on the report by a major Western TV channel or newspaper. The others have all chosen silence as a way of living with the embarrassment of unwittingly being told by the World Bank that they were wrong in fighting against land reform in Zimbabwe, a country where all the elements and factors that the World Bank now says justify land expropriation without compensation, were present.

The report, which the World Bank calls a Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD), was done in collaboration with the South African government. It virtually, though unwittingly, vindicates Zimbabwe's much-maligned land reform programme and the man who led it, former President Robert Mugabe.

The epiphany

According to the report, the World Bank Group's twin goals are to help countries to eliminate poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity (that is, reduce inequality).

"These goals are also enshrined in South Africa's Vision 2030 in the National Development Plan," the report says. "The World Bank Group is preparing for its 2019-2022 Country Partnership Framework with South Africa, and drafted this Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) to strengthen its understanding of key constraints to achieving these twin goals."

This SCD was led by Marek Hanusch (senior economist, World Bank) under the guidance of Paul Noumba Um (country director, World Bank) and Saleem Karimjee (country manager...

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