Organised agriculture will soon sign a declaration of intent on land reform that will help government to transform the sector, AgriSA said on Thursday.
“We are extending a hand of friendship……here to government, in saying we want to partner with you. We want to collaborate and take this country forward,” Agri SA President Dan Kriek said.
Kriek was speaking at the Landbou Weekblad and Agri-SA Land and Agricultural Summit currently underway in Bela Bela which was addressed by Deputy President David Mabuza.
The Summit comes following the 27 February 2018 motion adopted by the National Assembly to amend the Constitution so as to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. The matter was subsequently referred to the Joint Constitutional Review Committee.
Kriek said the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) National African Farmers’ Union (NAFU), Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) and Agri will sign the declaration of intent on Monday “as living proof” of their commitment.
“Deputy President we will provide you with a plan that can assist in kick starting the economy and doing transformation,” said Kriek.
Kriek’s comments come as the Joint Constitutional Review undertook an extensive nation-wide public hearing process from June to August.
Deliberations on the public hearings and written inputs are set to occur between 4 and 7 September 2018, with the adoption of the report expected on 11 September 2018, where the Committee will make a recommendation to both Houses of Parliament for approval.
Kriek said there is a need for land reform, adding that there is a need for diversity in the sector.
This as government has stated that the Constitution has not been amended and the current legislative framework still applies. Government said while the Parliamentary process unfolds it will continue to advance land reform through existing programmes of land restitution, land redistribution and land tenure reform using the existing constitutional provisions.
“We need black farmers on more black farms and we can do that in a responsible way and in a legal way, in a developmental way, without scaring people,” said Kriek.
This as the Deputy President in his address said the land reform processes that South Africa is undertaking poses no threat to the agriculture sector and the South African economy.
Professor Ruth Hall, a researcher at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape, said the structure of South Africa’s agricultural sector has been shaped deeply and racially divided.
She said that Section 25 on Property of South Africa’s Constitution makes provision for land without compensation.
“Section 25 on property is a mandate for transformation, it does not provide a blanket protection of private property. It says the state can expropriate, it doesn’t need to pay market price,” she stressed.
This as Deputy President Mabuza also acknowledged that the process of land reform has not gone at the desired pace.
Professor Hall said only about 9.7% of commercial farm land has been redistributed through both redistribution and restitution.
“However we see a worrying trend which is that the programme started slowly. It reached a peak in 2007/2008 and it’s been in decline ever since. The official government land redistribution programme is slowing down and we need to think about what needs to be done about that,” she said.
She also added that most land is being redistributed in the Northern Cape.
Addressing poverty, inequality, unemployment
Meanwhile, Professor Ben Cousins who is a research chair at PLAAS said the country needs to get serious about land reform.
“We live in a country of extraordinary inequality and unemployment especially for the youth. Clearly land reform on its own cannot really resolve the larger problems of inequality and poverty, however it can make a small but important contribution. Land reform is necessary,” said Professor Cousins.
Cousins comments come as South Africans woke up to a tweet from US President Donald Trump stating that he has asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ‘closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures’ and the killing of farmers.
In his address to the two-day gathering, the Deputy President who was later joined by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, spoke out against those using the matter to divide South Africans.
“We would like to discourage those who are using this sensitive and emotive issue of land to divide us as South Africans by distorting our land reform measures to the international community, and spreading falsehoods that our ‘white farmers’ are facing the onslaught from their own government. This is far from the truth,” said the Deputy President.
Government also stressed that it is committed to a fair and sustainable land restitution and redistribution process, adding that all will be done to safeguard the estimated R460 billion worth of investment in agricultural assets.
The Deputy President told delegates that government has established an Inter-Ministerial Committee of Land Reform whose task is to provide political oversight on work being undertaken with regards to the implementation of land reform and related anti-poverty interventions on land and agrarian reforms.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee will be advised by the Panel of Experts to be appointed by the President to advise on the how best the processes of land expropriation should be managed.
“More importantly, the agriculture sector will have three representatives in the panel of experts. This panel will assist in providing a unified perspective on expropriation of land,” he said, adding that the immediate focus is on government owned land.
“We have begun to audit all land parcels owned by government across all spheres, including land owned by state owned enterprises. Government will prioritise land under the ownership of the state, including unused and under-utilized state land and ensure that this land is redistributed and put to productive use.”
In the main, this land will targeted for agricultural production, industrial, human settlements as well as economic and industrial development.
To address the competing interests between agriculture and mining, the Deputy President is engaging mining houses to make sure that land owned by mines which is no longer available for mining, is rehabilitated for agricultural use.
The Summit which has a total of 65 speakers will conclude on Friday.