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Minister’s admission to shortcomings in Land Department worrying

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The 2019/2020 report of the auditor-general shows claims of more than R2bn being instituted against the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development & Land Reform (DARDLR) for the eviction of farmers from their profitable farming enterprises by incompetent officials. This Minister Didiza admitted in Parliament recently. This basically relates to state expropriation without compensation of new black commercial farmers on state land.

Minister Didiza further admitted in parliament last week Tuesday that her officials struggle to manage the massive property portfolio of farms under state control. The 700,000ha redistribution plan was only for land which the state thought was lying idle, but obviously had farmers on it and farming, some successfully. The state has no factual recount of who owns land in South Africa. There is no transparent picture on land access for South Africa.

What is clear from studies done by the IRR is that most citizens are not interested in land for farming, but in jobs, education and safety. “Our fears are confirmed and that is very worrying that Minister Didiza admits to the state of disaster of the national department tasked with managing land in our country and the shortcomings in this department. This in spite of the Minister and governments’ pressure to continue with expropriation of land”, said Francois Wilken, Free State Agriculture’s (FSA) president.

Wilken says that FSA’s Stop Expropriation campaign made it very clear that if the state is serious about real agricultural sector inclusive growth and land reform in the “public interest” it would release the 5500 state farms into private full-title ownership. This he says is not by merely handing over title-deeds, but:
1. Through highly subsidised credit, capped per individual for the really serious new farmer to enable them to buy a farm from the state or on the open market.
2. Also essential in the plan for success, says Wilken, is “training and a suitable support structure to assist these new commercial farmers achieve commercial success.
a. This includes business (labour and financial) management training and financial mentorship.
b. Currently it’s the banks, agri-Businesses and commodity associations forming a team who are supporting successful new commercial farmers. They also involve experienced commercial farmers as mentors.
3. Ensuring the right beneficiaries get access to the land and not following the failed Military Veteran, Women and Youth allocation ideology, but making sure all applicants can and will be able to farm successfully before being issued a loan.                                                       4. Opening up the space for farmworkers as owners of new land or as shareholders to also apply for these loans and that their equivalent land share also to be documented in the land audit as long as they fit in the framework for success above.

FSA looks forward to assisting the DARDLR in helping create the enabling environment for real agricultural sector growth and land reform in the best “public interest”.