PARLIAMENT - The government will soon make announcements on the redistribution of more than two million hectares of state land for agricultural purposes, Deputy President David Mabuza told the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday.
Mabuza said the government was not only looking into speeding up restitution of farmland but also redistributing land to emerging farmers and to this end it was looking at state-owned land and drafting qualifying criteria for beneficiaries.
"We are looking at land in the hands of government that we are going to redistribute to people to grow, to plant. Very soon we are going to make announcements on how we are going to redistribute with the necessary support."
Mabuza said there were 278 parcels of land in question, amounting to almost 2.9 million hectares in total.
Government would give priority to young people and to women who want to enter the farming sector and give them support to ensure they succeed in agriculture and boost food production, he said.
"We want to redistribute land that is going to be utilised."
Mabuza made the comments while replying to questions on the government's land reform programme in the NCOP.
He conceded that in the recent past emerging farmers who were beneficiaries of restituted and redistributed land had failed to farm successfully and said this was a function of inadequate state support.
"Our support has been erratic," he said.
"There have been weaknesses in the manner we support small farmers. This resulted in a number of small farmers failing."
He said in some cases beneficiaries received productive farms but failed to keep them going, in part because support measures were not well coordinated between the national and provincial governments.
"It is free money that we give to a farmer. In all provincial departments, there is money for farmer support, free of charge, that goes to farmers. The only snag here is that the things that national government and provincial governments were doing were not coordinated."
Mabuza said government wanted to go as far as making sure there were receptive markets for emerging farmers and mooted a policy to dictate that all vegetables bought for state hospitals and school nutrition programmes be sourced from emerging farmers.
Mabuza also said that government would speed up restitution in cases where the land in question belonged to the state. There were 260 such and 40 have been honoured so far, he added.
"So there are 220 land parcels that we are still investigating. We are doing all our processes but we are going to give them back to the people."'
Regarding private land that is subject to restitution claims, he told lawmakers that here the state was waiting for Parliament to draft and adopt the planned constitutional amendment that will explicitly give government the power to expropriate land without compensation and set out the circumstances when this could be done.
"We are going to do this within the confines of the law," he stressed.
Mabuza said there where white commercial farmers who were transferring land to labour tenants and encouraged others to follow their example to help to balance skewed ownership patterns, caused by the large-scale dispossession of indigent land owners more than a century ago.
"That will foster the spirit of a nation, that will foster a united society. Why can't we as a country agree that we must right this wrong."
He stressed that nothing the government did was a negation of the rights of white South Africans.
"White South Africans are a part of this country."
African News Agency (ANA)