Mabuza's address on land expropriation without compensation receives a warm welcome from the agricultural sector

The farming community has hailed as a step in the right direction the land expropriation speech of Deputy President David Mabuza at the Land Summit in Limpopo on Thursday.

The deputy president's speech came after US President Donald Trump caused a massive stir with his tweet about land expropriation without compensation.

Mabuza addressed several white elephants in the room, since the ANC's land expropriation announcement at its elective conference in December last year, when he spoke at the summit, organised by Landbouweekblad and Agri SA in Bela-Bela.

"As the leadership of the ANC and government, we are clear that the implementation of land reform measures must not result in social fractures and racial polarisation," Mabuza said.

"The land reform processes that we are undertaking poses no direct threat to the agriculture sector and the economy as a whole," he added. 

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South Africa's second-in-command called on farmers to continue to work hard, invest in their farms and increase production, while extending a hand of collaboration to the government to ensure that more and more South Africans enter the sector through organised and systematic access to land for productive use.

"Everything we do will be done within the confines of our constitutional framework. As the ANC, we will not support 'land grab' processes intended to undermine the economy and the work of the agriculture sector."

Mabuza promised that no farms would be invaded or grabbed and that farmers did not have to fear for their well-being.  

Agri SA president Dan Kriek welcomed the speech and said it closed a gap of uncertainty that had crept in since the announcement of expropriation without compensation. 

"We welcome that they have taken leadership now and actually tell the agricultural sector what their plans are, because for a long time, since December and afterwards, we said that the president must take us into his confidence and tell as the agricultural sector where they are heading with this," Kriek said. 

"I welcome his speech this morning, there was a lot of detail in it, there was a lot of assurances to farmers. He also pointed out that it is a delicate process, it is an emotional process and basically every South African from all walks of life is involved in it."

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Kriek said the land question has transformed to a point where rational people were speaking to other rational people, and added that the government took farmers into their confidence on the issue. 

"It is critical that we have turning points in this debate now and I think the deputy president's speech is such a turning point."

Shasha Moleko, who works with the Isizwe Sonke Agricultural Group which helps emerging farmers, said through Mabuza's speech, the government had finally given a detailed description of their intentions and how land reform through expropriation would be accelerated.  

"If you don't disclose and announce your intentions, then fear happens," said Moleko.

He added that it was a relief to hear that the government and the agricultural sector were on the same page because many farmers became scared when expropriation was announced without any detailed explanation or plans on how it would be expedited.

"I am excited for the future of black emerging farmers. This is a win-win for everyone."

Mabuza said the government was resolute in protecting the agricultural sector to prevent any contraction and threat to food security and added that farmers should not fear land reform because it would not destroy production.

"Instead, it is about expanding new horizons and possibilities to double our production capacity, especially where land has already been restituted and redistributed. It is about expanding access to land and ensuring that every piece of land is productive, including communal land."

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The deputy president added that government-owned land would be the immediate focus.

He made it clear that land reform would begin with government-owned land earmarked for agricultural production, industrial use, human settlement and economic and industrial development.

"Government will prioritise land under the ownership of the state, including unused and under-utilised state land and ensure that this land is redistributed and put to productive use," said Mabuza.

"We also have agricultural land that has absentee farmers and is lying fallow. Such land will be transferred to the people who will put it to productive use."

Long-time Free State farmer Nick Serfontein said that Mabuza's speech was a huge step in the right direction. 

"The government is now coming to the table," said Serfontein. 

"Something is going to happen now, for 24 years, nothing has happened, the system was completely broken and we have got to absolutely revitalise agriculture in South Africa. We have to sink this Titanic, the current system and then start anew."

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Serfontein added that thousands of farmers were eagerly waiting to lend a hand to support emerging farmers and make a difference in rebuilding a united farming sector. 

While the overwhelming majority of those News24 spoke to at the land summit were hopeful, there was at least one cautious voice.

Henk Van der Graaf, the Limpopo chairperson of the Transvaal Agricultural Union, said while he was also optimistic following Mabuza's speech, what would be done in reality remained to be seen. 

"We will see what will come from that (Mabuza's speech)," said Van der Graaf.