Mabuza commends agriculture presidents' commitment on land reform plan

In a move which Deputy President David Mabuza hailed as a "watershed moment" on Monday, four presidents of organised agriculture signed a statement of intent to develop a national strategy focusing on the transformation of the sector.

The four organisations said they had had a number of high-level interactions and done "some serious introspection".

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The organisations are: The African Farmers' Association of South Africa, National African Farmers' Union of SA, AgriSA and the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa.

"We have noted the parliamentary process on expropriation without compensation and are all participating in the process," they said in their statement of intent.

"We are going to host an indaba for our sector with the aim of coming up with a national development strategy for an inclusive and sustainable sector."

Problems with the land reform policies

Their comments followed the ANC's land expropriation announcement at its elective conference in December last year, and the conclusion of 34 public hearings in nine provinces by Parliament's Joint Constitutional Review Committee.

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The committee had been instructed to ascertain whether it was necessary to amend the Constitution to make it possible for the State to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.

The groups said on Monday that the problems with the land reform policies and programmes were so comprehensive and intricate, that it was unlikely that they could be fixed.

"The system needs a complete redesign... Post settlement support for new few farmers is critical. Land cannot be transferred without support."

They said export-led growth for black farmers was crucial and financial mechanisms supporting black farmers was urgently needed.

They also felt more opportunities should be created for women and youth in the sector.

"There is a lack of accountability toward transformation and nobody is held accountable for mistakes made on land reform," the organisations stated.

"The negative impact of opportunism in some cases, on the prices of land and the quality of land offered to the state for land reform, is acknowledged and should be addressed."

It is the organisations' belief that an agricultural development plan should be economically sustainable.

"Private ownership and the free market principle are accepted as the basis for economic growth."

Mabuza, who attended the event, said Ramaphosa had asked him to convey his words of support.

Last week, he promised farmers at a land summit in Limpopo that no farms would be invaded or grabbed and that farmers did not have to fear for their well-being.

"For me I am very grateful to be part of this moment. It is a watershed moment, a very important moment in the life of our country," he said on Monday.

Mabuza thanked the organisations for working together and for being courageous.

"Government will hold hands with you, will march side by side until we reach our destination. Be assured of our support each step of the way."

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