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Cape Town - Organised agriculture has slated a government proposal for farmers to give workers parts of their land.
Annelize Crosby, legal and policy adviser for Agri SA, explained on Thursday that the proposals came in a draft policy under discussion in the green paper on land reform.
The proposal is for farmworkers with 10, 25 and 50 years’ service to be given equal percentages of the farms they work on. However, it does not say what would happen if a number of workers claimed these shares.
Crosby said: “This simply hasn’t been thought through. We can’t see that it will bring any benefit to farmworkers because it may mean that farmworkers would suddenly owe a share of debt.
“The only way in which farmworkers could realise any value is by selling the share. That would immediately devalue the remaining share of the farm. And where would the money come from to pay out these shares?”
Crosby said the proposal contained the assurance that the scheme would be voluntary and compensation would be paid. “But we are still a little bit worried, because the whole slant in the rest of the policy seems to suggest it may not be voluntary. If it’s going to be forced, it’s going to cause a lot of trouble.”
Agri SA had been sent the proposal for comment on August 2.
“We have been given, as organised agriculture, an opportunity to come up with alternative proposals.”
Western Cape Agriculture MEC Gerrit Van Rensburg said: “Land reform and agricultural empowerment has been a dismal failure for the past 20 years.
“The responsible department, Rural Development and Land Reform, has only plans to show but nothing else. This latest plan is another such plan.”
Van Rensburg said commercial farmers wanted successful empowerment in their sector. “The Western Cape has more than 80 ‘equity share schemes’, where workers bought shares, with the assistance of government, in the farms where they work.
“These schemes have a success rate higher than 90 percent
… equity schemes work because only a profitable enterprises can put a monetary value on shares to begin with. It also served as a guarantee that government paid realistic money for the workers’ shares.”
And, crucially: “These schemes are successful because they are voluntary. Only people with a passion for farming ventured into them, as there are real risks involved.”
This successful government funding had stopped in 2009, however.
“Using a one-size-fits-all approach such as years in service, without taking (account of) the vast differences existing on each farm… is doomed for failure.”