Complex farming issue ‘not thought through carefully enough’
A CONTROVERSIAL proposal that commercial farmers hand over half of their land to their farm workers has been described as a band-aid or quick-fix response to a festering problem in South Africa.
The proposal comes from Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti.
Nkwinti’s spokesman, Mtobeli Mxotwa, said the minister had four years ago asked agricultural stakeholders to come up with submissions on land reform and, when nothing was presented, he took the political decision to put the proposal forward earlier this year.
“The stakeholders have been given a year until April 2015 to comment on the proposal on how to redistribute land democratically and fairly. At the moment, 87% of the 82 million hectares of agricultural land is owned by white farmers,” he said.
Mxotwa said the aim of the proposal was not to chase away white farmers but was meant to be a win-win situation for both farmers and farm workers.
Half of the farmer’s land would be bought by the government and the money would go into an investment development fund, to which both the farmer and farm worker would have access.
“There will not be a collapse in food security. The farmer will act as mentor and there will be various conditions attached to the sale. A land rights management board will handle any disputes,” Mxotwa said.
Addressing farmers in Port Elizabeth recently, Agri SA deputy executive director Johan Pienaar admitted that organised agriculture had been given the opportunity by the minister to put ideas forward on how to handle land reform and did not come up with anything.
He said one of the biggest concerns facing the farming community was land restitution and how the government would take custodianship of farms without paying market-related prices for the land.
Pienaar said Nkwinti’s proposal was particularly concerning because farmers would not receive any compensation for half of their land, with the money placed in the investment fund.
Rhodes University dean of humanities Professor Fred Hendricks said for the purposes of land reform it was not possible to pay market-related prices for farm land.
“Land reform involves a degree of social justice after the gross dispossession of land in SA and therefore the state cannot pay market-related prices to the possessed on behalf of the dispossessed,” Hendricks said.
However, he said the 50% proposal by Nkwinti did not seem “thought through carefully enough for such a complex issue” since the agricultural land in the country was vastly different and therefore an across- the-board proposal could not be applied to land in Limpopo compared to the Karoo.
Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) general secretary Katishi Masemola said in principle the proposal sounded like a good idea.
However, he said, the devil was in the details.
He said issues that needed to be fleshed out were who would practically manage the investment fund, who would control the land in terms of decision-making and how exactly the stake of the individual farm worker in terms of his or her proportional service years on the farm would be determined.
“As a union we will offer a policy response to the minister’s proposal,” Masemola said.
EFF provincial convenor Themba Wele said 50% was not enough and that all the farm land in the country needed to be redistributed.
“We want all the land, 50% is not enough. Farm labourers are not the puppets of the white man. The ANC sold us out a long time ago, 50% is not enough,” Wele said.
DA provincial leader Athol Trollip said he found the proposal disingenuous and a sign of the desperation of the ANC government that had not reached its land reform targets.
Trollip said organised agriculture was encouraged to come up with an alternative for the controversial policy, but that land reform was the responsibility of the government and not farmers.
Nkwinti’s proposal to take 50% of farmers’ land without any compensation would be unconstitutional because it infringed on farmer’s basic property rights.
“The DA will continue to lobby for the redistribution and restoration of land in a sustainable, affordable and practical manner that will not destroy the agricultural sector and food security in the country,” Trollip said.