Expropriation debate must not hinder agribusiness initiatives - Agbiz
DURBAN - THE AGRICULTURAL and agribusiness sector said it hoped that the renewed debate over section 25 of the Constitution and the Expropriation Bill would not detract from initiatives intended to drive the sector’s growth and expansion, the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) said yesterday.
The debate over section 25 of the Constitution and the Expropriation Bill continued last week as Parliament’s portfolio committee on public works hosted public hearings on the Expropriation Bill, while the committee tasked with “making explicit what is implicit” in section 25 continued with its public hearings.
Agbiz said the outcome of these processes would have implications for public sentiment.
The chamber’s chief economist, Wandile Sihlobo, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (Dalrrd), agribusinesses and various social partners had been hard at work for months crafting the Agricultural and Agro-processing Master Plan, and established blended finance instruments. He said these initiatives were aimed at igniting growth and expansion in the agricultural sector as part of the government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
“Both these initiatives are set to be launched in the coming months, whilst the first phase of the blended finance instrument has already started, as evidenced by the launch of the joint Agri-Industrial Fund of R1 billion by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in partnership with the Dalrrd,” said Sihlobo.
“These are constructive programmes with the potential to ignite growth and transformation in the sector. As such, industry bodies such as Agbiz allocate most of their time and resources to pursue these goals. Sadly, much of this good work takes place behind the scenes whilst other significant policy developments that might deter the progress grabs social partners’ attention and the media.”
Sihlobo said it was prudent that Parliament decided on the section 25 matter, mindful of the broader impact on the agricultural sector and other sectors of the economy when South Africa was undergoing economic reconstruction.
Agbiz said land reform was an important policy imperative which they fully supported.
“Yet we do not believe that an amendment of the Constitution will lead to the country’s desired outcome of prosperity. Likewise, Parliament must finalise the Expropriation Bill. It provides the procedural guarantees required to bring the government and an expropriated owner or bondholder onto an equal footing if expropriation occurs. Unlike the section 25 amendment, Agbiz is broadly supportive of the need for legislation to regulate expropriation but opposes the provisions relating to ’nil’ compensation. Expropriation should always be used as a last resort and cannot substitute for well-formulated and well-implemented programmes to effect transformation in the sector,” said Sihlobo.