DURBAN - FARMERS have warned the ANC that its land expropriation plan without proper compensation could provoke racial tension in the country.
These concerns sprang to life after the party made what has been previously described as a populist call to fast-track land expropriation without compensation, when it completed its 54th national congress in Nasrec this week.
A white farmer from Gluckstadt in the northern Zululand, who preferred not to be named, said the desired result of more black land ownership was for a good cause but to take expropriate land without compensation was “extreme”.
He said he subscribed to the idea of returning the land to people who were previously dispossessed but if it was not handled properly it could spark racial tensions because it threatened the livelihood of white farmers.
“It is a highly emotive situation – emotions run high when one tends to think about it because we have no clue what is going to happen to us.”
The farmer said during previous land claims, people had received their cash, but farmers whose land was still under dispute were left to deal with uncertainty and were unable to work the disputed land.
Another white farmer from Newcastle who spoke on condition of anonymity said the government had to handle land claims delicately so as not to exacerbate racial tension that already existed in farming communities.
“No one wants to be kicked out of the land they have worked on all their lives and I know of farms where the employees have turned against farmers and lodged a land claim.
“What do you think is going to happen when those farmers are told to leave without even getting any compensation to help them start a new life elsewhere?” he said.
Just Veggies’ co-chief executive, Lex Campbell, said there had been a fair amount of land transferred to communities, but lack of skills and capital has resulted in 80 to 90% of the farms ending up being unproductive.
“Farming is competitive. We need to compete with external markets by adapting to modern ways of farming and avoid importing food when we can produce our own,” he said.
Campbell supported newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to party members to be careful and avoid doing things haphazardly, which could scare off investors.
Livestock farmers Thube Zondi and Zamo Zuma, from the Midlands, warned the ANC about handing over farms to undeserving politicians.
Zondi, 33, a qualified farmer who holds a diploma in animal production and is the secretary of the African Farmers Association, appealed to officials to stop rhetoric, but to speed up the land distribution process, which would benefit indigenous farmers.
“Ramaphosa is a farmer. Therefore, he would be familiar with the concerns of black farmers.
“If redistribution is done fairly, which means prioritising the current crop of farmers as land beneficiaries, food security could be ensured,” Zondi said.
Zuma, 43, said giving land to people because they were politically connected would defeat the purpose of the exercise.
Spokesman for the KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Khaye Nkwanyana said the government had a post-settlement programme to support land claim beneficiaries and help them maintain the productive levels on the farms they receive.