A worker walks between rows of vegetables at a farm in Eikenhof. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Johannesburg - South Africa’s food production farmers have been assured that their farms will not be affected by land expropriation without compensation, which is under consideration by the government.

Mike Mlengana, the director-general of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, made the assurance at a two-day summit on farm killings and stock theft in Pretoria yesterday.

He said the food production sector was an important, core generator of the economy and that, according to Statistics SA, the sector had grown 1.3%, exceeding the National Treasury’s expectation of 1%.

“The strengthening in economic activity in 2017 was partly driven by the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors recovering from one of the worst droughts in recent history.”

The sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) was 2.4% last year.

“The sectors have expanded for four consecutive quarters. The growth in the industry is attributed to the increase in the production of field, crops, horticulture and animal products,” Mlengana said.

His assurance came during the last day for written submissions to Parliament on the proposed amendments to section 25 of the constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation.

Mlengana and his officials were adamant that food production farms would not be affected by the proposed amendments to the constitution.

The parliamentary review committee was expected to hold public hearings at the end of the month until August on the proposed changes to the legislation.

Mlengana said all interested parties should ensure that the agricultural sector worked hard to create jobs and contributed towards GDP and food security.

“This is our priority as the sector and we must work together in achieving this, notwithstanding the issue of safety and security within the farming communities.

“According to StatsSA at least 1.2 million people in South Africa live in extreme poverty and go to bed hungry daily.

“The critical question is: what are we doing about the number of South Africans who go to bed hungry every single day?” Mlengana asked.

Steve Galane, spokesperson for the department, said the delegates agreed to implement the rural safety plan and to report all incidents of stock theft to the police.

The commitment to work with the police came after a number of farmers complained about the lack of assistance from law enforcement agencies.

However, according to Galane, “the summit changed the attitude of those farmers”.

According to police statistics, the Eastern Cape has the highest cases of stock theft followed by KwaZulu-Natal.

The summit heard that due to these crimes, the Eastern Cape had 22 police units prioritising stock theft, KZN 16, Mpumalanga and the Free State 11 each, Limpopo eight, North West and Northern Cape seven each, Western Cape six while Gauteng had two, the lowest number in the country.

There were 1236 police officers attached to the stock theft and endangered species unit throughout the country, with 331 vacant positions.

Political Bureau