The Advisory Panel on Land Reform, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018 to advise him and the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform on a way forward with land reform in its broadest meaning and on the issue of compensation. The Panel report covers all the programmes of land reform and contains recommendations on measures for urban and rural land reform. The report addresses aspects such as land tenure in communal areas, tenure security on farms, expropriation, agrarian reform, land demand and beneficiary selection.
The Panel’s recommendations are comprehensive and, in some cases controversial. Agri SA cannot support these controversial recommendations. Some of the worrying recommendations are:
Whilst Agri SA will always participate in all policy processes that can affect our members, these processes take up a huge amount of time and they take up a lot of resources, also in terms of taxpayers ‘money.
From Agri SA’s point of view, and this was also stated in the High-Level Panel Report on Key legislation, the main problems, are not policy related, but can be attributed to poor implementation, inadequate budgets and corruption. These are the things that require priority focus and attention, not the policy side of things.
Although there may be merit in drafting redistribution legislation, it is not entirely clear what aspects such a Bill will address and how. There are indications in the Report that such legislation may be used to target and then forcefully acquire land identified by municipalities as being required for redistribution. This is an invitation for corrupt practices and misuse of power. Coupled with proposals for expropriation without or at minimal compensation, this will exasperate uncertainty in farming areas and further contribute to disinvestment in the farming sector.
Whilst Agri SA agrees that some subdivision may be necessary, wholesale subdivision of a scarce resource in the absence of legislation that protects high quality agricultural land, is dangerous for the future of food security in our country.
Agri SA has cautioned that the number of farmers who are in a position to donate land should not be over-estimated. Many farmers are struggling to make ends meet and economy of scale is a survival mechanism for farmers. Also, no real incentives are in place as yet to encourage farmers who can do so, to donate land;
This is actually a debate on its own. Agri SA needs to point out that water is a scare resource in South Africa and that commercial irrigation farmers make a huge contribution to food production and export earnings.
There are recommendations contained in the report that seem to indicate an intention to register the tenure rights of farm dwellers who are residing on commercial farms and to then enforce those rights in competition with the rights of the current landowner. This reminds one of the 2010 Land Tenure Bill, which was very controversial at the time;
Agri SA has also studied the alternative report submitted by Dan Kriek and Nick Serfontein. This report focusses on the role of the free market and the private sector in land reform and contains practical proposals of how agricultural land reform can be achieved in a sustainable manner. Important elements of the alternative report are:
Agri SA broadly supports the principles of these proposals. We are strongly of the view that land reform in farming areas will take a huge step forward with the establishment of an agricultural development agency where the private sector takes a leading role in driving and financing sustainable land reform. We also believe that we should build on existing best practice models such as the ones showcased at the Bela-Bela land summit last year.
Agri SA is concerned about several aspects of the report and particularly the controversial recommendations highlighted earlier.
We are of the view that rather than having more time-consuming consultation processes, the focus should be om working together and implementing meaningful projects now.
However, should these consultation processes unfold, we will participate fully and make sure that the economic realities, which are not sufficiently addressed in the report are put on the table.
In the meantime, Agri SA will continue on full steam with its many transformation initiatives and with the establishment of an agri development fund