Durban - KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala has called on white landowners to apologise for taking land from African farmers, saying refusing to do so would set the country on the path to self- destruction.
“Who gave the white landowners a mandate to take the land? They did not pay for the land to begin with, and developed it using black labour.
“African farmers, who are owed an apology for having their land taken away, accept this situation and continue to live in challenging conditions on the land they are entitled to.
“This is what happened in Zimbabwe and we must guard against the same thing happening here,” Zikalala told the Sunday Tribune.
His latest statement follows his call last week for a referendum on land expropriation without compensation and is expected to be debated at the ANC’s conference later this year.
In a further warning, Zikalala said the provincial ANC would push to accept the EFF’s offer of handing its six percent parliamentary vote to the ANC to amend the constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation.
“The ANC declined the EFF’s offer of its six percent because we have a constitution which must be respected and the party must consult with its people for a mandate. But as the ANC in this province, we are going to advocate within the ANC for a change in the constitution, even if it means accepting the EFF’s six percent to do so,” said Zikalala.
But, added Zikalala, white land-owners who were willing to share their skills and negotiate a fair settlement to return a portion of land to African farmers would be spared from having it all taken away.
“Those who are willing to apologise and come forward to transform our economy will be welcomed in the negotiations and we will work with them.
“Those who want to hold on to the land without sharing will lose it all.
“But African farmers who fail to develop the land productively will also have it taken away and kept by the state. It’s a principle of use it or lose it.”
Responding to Zikalala’s comments, the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union said it was concerned as such statements could raise false expectations.
“The constitution does not allow for any land to be taken without just and equitable compensation. South Africa does not have the monetary resources to expropriate 70 percent of the land and raising any false expectations on expropriation could potentially lead to conflict, which we can ill afford during this difficult time of drought and the impact on food production,” said its chief executive, Sandy La Marque.
However, the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa has welcomed Zikalala’s comments, saying they were long overdue.
“There is resistance from white farmers to share their skills and transfer land to African communities. Large companies and white farmers are taking advantage of poor farming communities, who are desperate to survive.
“Negotiations are done in bad faith and its the poor African farmers who continue to be disadvantaged. This is why we fully support Zikalala’s call for a referendum on the issue,” said Mandla Buthelezi, KZN head of the association.
In an investigation, the Sunday Tribune visited a few farms across the province over the past few weeks. There were cases where white landowners sold their farms to black farmers through a BEE initiative.
However, the lack of skills sharing and resource constraints have led to the farms falling into a state of disuse, with the original owners then leasing it back from the farmers at substantially reduced rates and developing it for commercial self-gain.
“We are aware of such cases, and this points to how white land owners are manipulating the issue of land expropriation. The majority of white landowners are not willing to compromise and that is hindering transformation progress in this country.
“Every aspect of the agricultural food chain is monopolised by whites. Africans do not have access to this, including dairy and maize and if Africans cannot play a meaningful role in the economy then we cannot talk about transformation.
“These are the issues which contribute to the destruction of our spirit of a rainbow nation and we must work harder to try and rebuild that,” said Zikalala.
Latest statistics from the KwaZulu-Natal agricultural union show that 46.2 percent of land in the province is fully black-owned while 35.8 percent of ownership is unknown. White agricultural land owners make up 15.6 percent while 2.3 percent is partially black-owned.
Whites still own most of the land in Free State – where the bulk of the country’s maize is produced.
According to the audit report, 93 percent of the land in the Free State is being used for farming, with 86.39 percent of it white-owned.