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Agriculture hails failure of land expropriation bill as positive for the country

The land reform programme in South Africa has been beset by myriad challenges. Picture: Bongani Mbatha, ANA.

The land reform programme in South Africa has been beset by myriad challenges. Picture: Bongani Mbatha, ANA.

Published Dec 9, 2021

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THE AGRICULTURE sector this week hailed the failure of government's bid to expropriate land without compensation, saying it was positive for the future of South Africa.

This followed the outcome of the debate on the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution in Parliament where the proposed amendment failed to secure the required two-thirds majority of votes on Tuesday.

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The issue has been highly contested. The ANC resolved at its policy conference of December 2017 that constitutional changes were needed to address racially skewed land-ownership patterns. However, this resolution caused damage to South-Africa’s reputation as an investment destination and dealt a blow to farmers’ confidence to invest in their assets in the country.

Agri SA president Jaco Minnaar described this outcome as positive for the future of South Africa, saying it would contribute towards renewed confidence in the economy.

It was now critically important that South Africa made real progress, with effective and sustainable plans to make land reform a success and this must happen within the existing policy and legislative framework, including programmes such as blended finance and the agricultural and agro-processing master plan, he said.

The Southern African Agri Initiative (Saai) board chairperson Dr Theo de Jager, who is also the president of the World Farmers Organisation (WFO), said farmers had a short period of relief.

“We know that the constitutional arrangement around property rights will not change in the short-term future. Some farmers who were hesitant to invest in new fields or orchids, might now do so. This will lead to more jobs where it is needed most - in the deep rural areas. Saai will closely watch the roll out of the expropriation bill to ensure that the integrity of the constitution is upheld, and take the matter to court if needed,“ De Jager said.

Saai said land expropriation had caused damage to South-Africa’s reputation as an investment destination, to the economy, to institutions like the Land Bank and to agricultural financing and the bankability of local farmers.

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Vumelana Advisory Fund chief executive Peter Setou said while they understood the emotive nature of land ownership and the frustration that many communities felt about the slow pace of land reform, remedial action did not lie in tinkering with the Constitution, but in addressing the bottlenecks that continued to impede expedient land reform.

“The land reform programme has been beset by myriad challenges, which have been echoed by the findings of the High-Level Panel Report (Motlanthe report) as well as the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform report, which detailed a number of the issues that have impacted on successful and effective land reform,” Setou said.

The non-profit organisation, which works with beneficiaries of the land reform programme to make their land profitable, said some of the barriers identified were: external factors such as prohibitively exorbitant asking prices for land, while some of the impediments pointed to a lack of political will, corrupt bureaucrats and officials, inept communal property associations, incessant infighting within claimant communities, insufficient funding to support land reform claimants, lack of capacity by the state and absence of post-settlement support as some of the primary barriers to a successful land reform programme.

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