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Cape Town - Rural areas are not being used properly, Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele said in Cape Town on Friday.
“I am very acutely aware of the neglect of rural areas of South Africa,” she told journalists at her provincial office.
“We need a massive rethinking of our agriculture, our land reform, and using agri-business to re-industrialise South Africa.”
She said the Eastern Cape had a huge amount of fertile land and could be used to grow soya, bamboo, hemp, and flax, like in Brazil.
“They grow a whole range of crops which we should be growing intensely in the Eastern Cape and stop this exodus of people from the Eastern Cape because there is nothing happening there economically.”
She said although hemp was easy to grow, local hemp farmers had been battling with government for the past 10 years because of strict regulations.
“The Americans grew themselves out of poverty in the depression of the '30s using hemp and we are still wanting to prove it is not dagga. Are we mad?”
Ramphele spoke about her concerns with the way land reform was being executed. She said it worried her that emotions were being “whipped up” in the process of taking land from some and giving it to others.
“We're taking it so lightly. We will live to regret our failure to recognise the danger of falsely promising people that they will be able to have access to the farm they are living on.”
She said no country, not even China with its meticulous authoritarian system, had succeeded in reforming land in this way.
“Sensible” experiments of shared ownership and relationships should be encouraged, such as the Solms-Delta wine estate in Franschhoek. This wine estate established a trust for its employees and gave them an equal equity stake in the winery.
Ramphele said people in townships should be given titles to their land so they could develop it. Established farmers should be paired with emerging farmers.
“Rural areas have been neglected over the past 20 years and there is no game plan from any of the parties to address that,” she said.
“We have a plan and we have put it forward.”