Speaker, land reform and empowerment in the agricultural sector is a much debated subject, but at the same time one of the most glaring failures of democratic South Africa up to date. Land reform has failed the people of South Africa because our country’s leadership has been making plans and drafting documents on the subject for more than 18 years now, but very little has been done in terms of implementing these plans.
Speaker, South Africans who were content with subsistence farming in the countryside in 1913 have totally different needs and aspirations in 2012: Decent education; health care; job opportunities to name a few. We need a pragmatic and realistic outlook on land reform if we are to redress the injustices of the past in our modern society.
Speaker: Locking people into ancient production methods on small scale farms is not empowering them to make a living in 2012.
We also need to achieve far better success with our new farmers. We need to support new entrants in agriculture in order for them to become independent. We need to assist our new farmers so they can grow into commercial farmers.
For the past 18 years our National Government has been blaming everyone but themselves for failing to succeed in this regard: Unwilling commercial farmers and inflated land prices being popular scapegoats. This sentiment was recently repeated when Gwede Mantashe warned the commercial agricultural sector that their unwillingness to transform the agricultural sector could lead to a Marikana type revolt.
Speaker, while Mantashe is lambasting farmers, I have a long list of disgruntled farmers who have concluded property sales with the National Department of Land Affairs and Rural Development, but are still waiting to be paid.
Speaker, the time has come for our National leaders to look at themselves for the failed state of land reform and agricultural transformation. We have been waiting for 30 months for the latest document on land reform to be finalised, and it is still only a green paper. During all this time of policy confusion the South African commercial agricultural sector has been desperately trying to work proactively with government on these issues.
In the mean time empowerment programmes are successfully driven by the various commodity organisations and private commercial enterprises. The commercial sector is quietly doing what government is supposed to do: Often without receiving any recognition or support from Government.
Speaker, it is also high time that the leaders of South Africa realise that agricultural empowerment and land reform can only succeed if we have a strong commercial sector. It is impossible to empower new farmers into an unprofitable sector. Government has a very important supportive role to play in this regard:
- Relevant research on crops and production methods is needed.
- Research on climate change is needed.
- Market access to existing markets, and new market opportunities must be negotiated.
- An animal health and disease control regulatory framework that is credible in the eyes of our export markets must be maintained.
- Agricultural policy is needed that would attract investment.
- Policies that will protect our natural environment and especially our scarce water resources are needed.
Speaker, what South Africa does not need, is the proposals voiced by President Zuma on agriculture and land reform at the recent African Farmers Association Congress in Pretoria. He is signalling his lack of knowledge and understanding regarding agriculture to the world and this will further damage investor confidence in the sector. The President is proposing that local farming communities make a 50% financial contribute towards buying 20% of agricultural land in that area for empowerment purposes. This idea is so flawed that it leaves one out of breath.
Land reform is the responsibility of the South African government, and tax revenue must be used towards this end. It cannot be expected of private land owners to subsidise a government function. Who will decide on which 20% of land? Who will decide on the value of this land?
The President justifies the millions already spent on the Recapitalisation Programme of the Department of Land Affairs and Rural Development. It does not make sense to spend more money on projects that have already been proven to be unsustainable.
Recapitalisation is depriving possible new entrants from getting the chance to prove their mettle. It is also preventing my Department from assisting new projects.
Is the President admitting his Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development has failed in his duties? Is he signalling that the much anticipated and 30-months-in-progress Green Paper on Land Reform is to be scrapped and replaced by these new ideas on land reform?
Speaker, all this confusion is creating an uncertain environment for investment in the agricultural sector. It is to the detriment of us all.
Shared Equity Schemes have proven to be the most successful model of agricultural land reform up to date. Currently close to 100 of these schemes exist in the Western Cape, and Gauteng has 6 such schemes.
Equity Schemes consists of farm workers, who together with their employer, partner into a business. The workers buy their shares with government money. Both partners are responsible and liable to profits and loss, and therefore 100% accountable. People with a passion for farming are generally involved, as they are already working in the agricultural sector. This system has over years proven to be very successful. What has Government’s response been?
First a moratorium was placed on Shared Equity Schemes in 2009. After much effort and lobbying by amongst others, Premier Helen Zille, this moratorium was lifted, but due to the focus on Recapitalisation, no new schemes have been funded since 2010.
While I have a long list of commercial farmers who want to empower their farm workers in this manner, Gwede Mantashe warns commercial farmers for their unwillingness to transform agriculture.
Speaker, Mantashe should take note of the many new farmers who are desperate to farm, but cannot, because the Department of Water Affairs is not transferring water rights to their properties. Precious fresh water is flowing into the sea which could have been used to create jobs and agricultural prosperity.
In the Western Cape we have since adopted a commodity approach towards agricultural empowerment. Each commodity organisation has established a body, represented by experts, farmers and relevant government officials. We are striving for a 60% success rate with these projects, in stark contrast to the National failure rate of 90%. We will be successful, because we recognise the crucial role that commercial agriculture has to play in the empowerment process.
Speaker: But there is a glimmer of hope regarding our national leaders. President Zuma recognises the important role of agriculture in our economy. The National Development Plan estimates that agriculture can create close to a million additional jobs in our economy. Agriculture creates the most employment for the smallest investment: Every R1 million invested in agriculture creates 11 jobs. The second best sector, retail, only creates 3 jobs for each R1 million invested.
Speaker: let us therefore focus on the task at hand, and create an environment for agriculture to prosper. We do not need more plans. Government should work together with the commercial sector. The willingness and goodwill from the agricultural sector has been there all the time. If Government would honour its basic service delivery mandates, and if our leaders would stop sending conflicting and investor hostile messages into the world, the agricultural sector can do what it does best: Create jobs; protect the environment; grow our economy and provide South Africa with food security.
Wouter Kriel, Spokesperson for Minister Van Rensburg
Tel: 021 483 4700
Cell: 079 694 3085