Agriculture groups have called on the Western Cape residents to be circumspect when giving their inputs on the Expropriation Bill, which is currently undergoing public scrutiny across the province, stating that it might an impact on food inflation and security.
Parliament is currently conducting public hearings on this controversial bill that was passed last year. If implemented, local, provincial, and national authorities will use this legislation to expropriate land in the public interest for varied reasons.
Amy Barclay, head of land centre of excellence at Agri SA, said Agri SA acknowledged that the dispossession of land caused deep emotional wounds that had not healed. It also caused great physical and psychological hardship of an enduring nature.
Agri SA believes that past iniquities must be dealt with through positive, future-oriented, and solution-driven conversation, and says it wants to make a positive contribution towards finding solutions.
"We also recognise that we, as a society, are faced with the triple challenges of inequality, poverty, and unemployment, and that these challenges are particularly prevalent in rural areas," said Barclay.
They supported the principle of equality in the bearing of public burdens, generally accepted in constitutional democracies, and believe that current landowners should not be required to bear a disproportionate burden of the imperative for land reform in the public interest.
"This principle is aimed at achieving a fair balance between the interests of the expropriator (usually funded by the fiscus) and the expropriated (who has lost his or her land)," said Barclay.
Farmers of this country had managed to create close to a million jobs currently and had managed to keep the country’s food secure. There were still far too many households in rural and urban areas that were food insecure.
Today’s farmers could not be held solely responsible for historical events and could not be required to bear the burden of addressing apartheid dispossession disproportionately, she added.
"Where the food system comes under pressure, food inflation may increase tremendously, and this may lead to massive food insecurity.
“The GOPA Group study points to the fact that ‘when a country is forced to free up scarce resources in order to import food, it is faced with the prospect of balance of payments instability and a depreciating currency, while often simultaneously having to cope with socio-political disturbances due to temporary food shortages’."
Agri Wes-Kaap’s legal manager, Louis Wessels, said expropriation must be approached with great caution as it was an essential part of any state’s toolkit.
“But, if it is used irresponsibly, it can severely undermine economic growth, food security and constitutional rights. Many South African farmers have committed their lives to the land, and to the production of food for South Africa and for export.
“Many come from a long line of farmers, and consider their vocation an absolutely fundamental part of their identity. Without a thriving agricultural sector, the constitutional vision of a South Africa in which the quality of life of all citizens is improved, and in which the potential of each person is freed, cannot be achieved,” said Wessels.
Meanwhile, Marius Fransman, former ANC Western Cape chairperson and now leader of the People's Movement for Change (PMC), a non-profit company that represents the interest of indigenous people such as the Khoi and San, said the current public hearings were just talk shops. Nothing would materialise from these engagements, he added.
"This is a flawed process, but it is also a process that tries to appease the community; it's not a process that is trying to address the injustices of land dispossession.
“The land debate in the country started way before 1912, and it was formalised in 1913 when the Natives' Land Act was passed. The government should start from here and bring back the land that was taken during this period before we can have a meaningful engagement.
“This issue must be fundamentally addressed to restore the injustice that was done pre-1913," said Fransman.
But, he said he was not saying the people of the Western Cape should not take part in these hearings. It was their democratic right to do so.
"90% of the land in the Western Cape is predominantly in the hands of the white minority, and the way they have received this land was through dispossession and stealing the land from indigenous people. That is the picture that the Western Cape people should put before the table," said Fransman.