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Turning around SA land reform

18 Mar 2015
The Witness
EDWARD WEST

KZN farmers offer alternatives

GOVERNMENT land reform initiatives had not worked because they tried to re-­establish commercial farms, instead of focusing on smaller farms for beneficiaries, said Roland Henderson, a beef and sheep farmer in northern KwaZulu­Natal.

He was one of many farmers in Pietermaritzburg yesterday as part of a KwaZulu­Natal Agricultural Union initiative to discuss successful land reform projects in the region.

Their aim was to highlight some viable options for the government to consider regarding land reform.

In the State of the Nation address in February President Jacob Zuma shocked farmers with new proposals for land reform, including giving farmworkers half the farm, limiting ownership to two farms and/or capping farm size to 12 000 hectares.

“We’ve tried to recreate commercial farms, but it isn’t what people want,” said Henderson, adding that countless surveys showed that rural people wanted land that was manageable for a family. This still enabled the farmworker to produce a crop, it gave him a place to live of his own and it also enabled him to continue working for a large commercial farmer.

He said Brazil had successfully completed a much bigger land reform process than South Africa’s in only 10 years, by focusing on smaller scale agriculture.

Kwanulu president Michael Black said a new approach to land reform was clearly needed.

The government had spent R70 billion on the process in 20 years to 2014, equal to 40% of the value of all agricultural land in SA.

“And the worst part is we have nothing to show for it,” he said.

Henderson provided an example of a successful land transformation project undertaken in eDumbe in Northern KwaZulu­Natal that he was involved in, which had made 3 848 hectares of land available to 1 732 beneficiaries.

He said worldwide, land transformation projects that had focused on large commercial farms, and which involved big community property­owning associations, had failed.

The political drive to transfer hectares was not the same as agriculture sector transformation, and farmers needed to urgently help drive land transformation initiatives in their communities: “The corner we are on is exceptionally tight,” he said.

Kwanulu CEO Sandy la Marque gave details at the meeting of more than 14 pieces of draft legislation in the pipeline that will affect land ownership and farming in rural areas, such as the Valuation Act, Expropriation Bill and the establishment of District Land Committees. She said however that many of proposals were still under discussion. She said that policies were needed to somehow make some farmers “unrestitutionable”.

These would include farmers who had undertaken black empowerment initiatives, who had already completed successful land reform projects in their communities, or recipients of previous land reform initiatives.