JOHANNESBURG - The proposed study by ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa into what has been done with redistributed farms has drawn mixed reactions from agriculture stakeholders and lobby groups and organisations.
He announced in the Eastern Cape last week that many of the farms returned since 1994 had been left derelict and were not being worked. Ramaphosa said he would order a study to be made on all the returned agricultural land and what could be done with it to change socio-economic conditions.
His remarks come after commercial farmers expressed concerns over an announcement published in the Government Gazette last month that codes for black empowerment would be adjusted and require a quarter of farms to be owned by black people whose produce should be sold to the government.
The ANC has been vocal on the land issue and resolved at its elective conference last month to amend the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation, as part of the radical economic transformation agenda.
Ramaphosa has stressed that this would be done in a way so as to not threaten food security and agricultural production.
Ruling African National Congress (ANC) party supporters attend the party's 106th birthday celebrations in East London, South Africa, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Newly elected ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed supporters for the first time since being elected last month. (AP Photo)
Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies director professor Benjamin Cousins said this was concerning as much of the redistributed agricultural land was not necessarily being used to its full potential.
“I see this as an attempt by Ramaphosa to give substance to his remarks that we can’t have land expropriation with compensation if it undermines food security,” said Cousins.
He said there was little data on performance of restored land and slammed government statistics as inadequate and providing few details.
“It’s guesswork because there’s no comprehensive statistical record of what’s happening at these farms, the levels of production and what the problems are. We are in the dark.
“A full-length assessment on what’s happening at this several million hectares of restored land is vital. We would welcome that,” added Cousins, who would not be drawn on the agriBEE amendments.
Transvaal Agricultural Union manager Bennie van Zyl slammed the proposed amendments, saying: “You must not take from somebody to empower another, that’s not how things should happen. This will bankrupt farmers. We are sitting on a time bomb.”
African Farmers Association president Dr Vuyo Mahlati said: “The proposed adjustment of codes to require at least one quarter of farms to be owned by blacks for produce sold to the government, while appreciated, should align with the acceleration of land reform and business development support.”
She said progressive frameworks became meaningless “if we consider 2016/17 figures with only 11percent of farmland transferred and the Land Bank loan book of just more than R2 billion of R39bn was for black enterprises.
“Of importance is to underscore that supplier development should recognise farming as a source of supply for multiple sectors beyond agricultural products.”
Black First Land First president Andile Mngxitama said: “The proposed amendments are quite mild, a joke, and long overdue.”