‘Reform farm projects create instant millionaires in East Cape’

THERE is no such thing as absolute right of ownership in the country anymore, despite farmers investing their “blood, sweat and tears” in their farming land. This is the view of Agri SA president Johannes Moller.

Addressing members of Agri Eastern Cape’s provincial congress at Willows in Port Elizabeth yesterday, Moller said although the government’s view of land reform was changing from a nationalisation point of view to “state custodianship of natural resources”, absolute ownership of land was disappearing, or “at least not looking the same anymore”.

In April, the Constitutional Court denied an appeal by Agri SA for damages over the alleged expropriation of mineral rights, and this cost the organisation millions of rands in legal fees.

“I am not too sure whether Section 25 of the constitution will be able to protect our farm ownership rights if we had to go fight for it in court,” Moller said.

However, guest speaker DA Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip said Section 25 protected a citizen’s right to property and should ensure a just and equitable land reform process.

He thanked the farmers for the “investment of your blood, sweat and tears in the province”, and said if farmers stopped investing, “the platteland economy will hit a brick wall”.

“Government set significant targets for land reform but won’t reach this target. They don’t know who owns what land and, therefore, the goalposts just keep on shifting.

“They also have no budget or resources to complete the reopening of the land claims.”

Trollip said the real land problem in the Eastern Cape was that the former homelands still looked the same as in the apartheid years.

Agri EC president Ernest Pringle said it was important to develop the former Transkei and Ciskei homelands.

“The government does not have a record of how much land has been transferred from white to black ownership,” he said.

“There has been a substantial number of private transactions in the Border/Kei and North Eastern Cape regions.

“We have little confidence in the land reform policies of the country, but we do give input on a provincial level.”

Pringle said the recapitalisation of land reform projects created “instant millionaires” in the province, with the government paying three to four times the value of farms to make the farms work.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and the Food and Allied Workers’ Union launched a campaign in Johannesburg yesterday for agrarian transformation and land distribution.

It would put pressure on the state to “fast-track agrarian transformation and land redistribution in South Africa and implement the provisions of the Freedom Charter that the land shall be shared by those who work it”, the unions said.

The campaign starts on Wednesday, coinciding with the centenary of the Natives Land Act of 1913, with one of the rallies planned for New Brighton in Port Elizabeth.

The campaign will continue until September and will include marches to Agri SA, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.