Land policy: ANC disowns draft plan

2014-06-29 15:01

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Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti is forging ahead with his controversial policy proposals to seize portions of farmland without compensation – despite not having a mandate from his party, the ANC.

City Press reported in April that Nkwinti’s department was mulling the seizure of half of each farm to then transfer the ownership of that land to people who had lived and worked on it for a stipulated number of years.

The draft policy, entitled Strengthening Relative Rights of People Working the Land, is part of government’s attempt to protect farm workers from evictions by farm owners after long service and speed up the lacklustre rate of land reform.

Even though the state will pay for the 50% portion that goes to the labourers, the money will not be pocketed by existing farmers.

Instead, the draft policy document says it “will go into an investment and development fund to be jointly owned by the parties constituting the new ownership regime”.

“The fund will be used to develop the managerial and production capacity of the new entrants to land ownership to further invest on the farm as well to lay out [sic] people who wish to opt out of the new regime,” says the document.

An ANC national executive committee member said he and some of his fellow leaders were unaware of Nkwinti’s mooted policy proposals as they did not come from the party’s conference resolutions.

“These proposals come from government [not the ANC], and they were discussed in government,” he said, adding that the resolutions out of the ANC’s 2012 Mangaung conference only referred to the reform of land tenure.

Another ANC leader said the proposals were unlikely to “pass constitutional muster if challenged as they amount to expropriation without compensation”.

He added that they went against what government has proposed in policy documents like the National Development Plan.

The Mangaung conference had taken the position that land should be bought at a just and equitable price in line with the Constitution. However, the conference did give a thumbs-up to expropriation of land without compensation if that land was “acquired through unlawful means or used for illegal purposes”.

Zizi Kodwa, the national spokesperson of the ANC, said there was no ANC policy position on the mooted 50% share equity scheme for farm dwellers.

“We are still awaiting an understanding of what exactly this means from the ministry that made the proposal,” he said.

Critics of the plan have said it ­appeared government was trying to ­outflank Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which fashions itself as a militant organisation with radical proposals on the economy and the ­expropriation of land without compensation. The EFF received 6.35% of the vote in this year’s national election.

Post-Polokwane, the ANC has agitated for the centrality of Luthuli House in making major policy decisions as it was felt that during the presidency of Thabo Mbeki, government had dictated policy instead of the ANC.

Even though the ANC in Parliament shot down the DA’s attempts to have the draft policy debated by the full sitting of Parliament, Nkwinti attended the governing party’s caucus meeting on Thursday where the matter was ­discussed.

An ANC MP who attended the meeting said Nkwinti had discussed the draft policy “extensively” and explained that it had even gone to Cabinet.

However, he denied that Nkwinti’s position went against the ANC’s stance on the issue.

“The minister is bringing [up] new ideas. The proposal is not different from [Small Business Development] Minister Lindiwe Zulu’s ministry – it did not come from any conference.

“Government is introducing innovation. You wouldn’t want to say let’s go to a conference each time you are ­innovating,” he said.

Motsepe Matlala, the president of the National African Farmers’ Union, said it was difficult to tell who Nkwinti was targeting with this land reform ­proposal as it seemed to apply to both black and white farmers.

Matlala said his organisation would study the proposals and make a ­submission.

Nkwinti’s spokesperson, Mtobeli ­Mxotwa, said the proposals were in line with ANC conference resolutions, which he said allowed for a limit on the amount of land individuals could hold.

“This thing [also] comes from the Freedom Charter, which says land shall be shared among those who work it,” he added.

Mxotwa denied that the proposals amounted to expropriation without compensation, saying that paying the farmer for the land would be a form of “double-dipping” because the ­farmer’s portion of the land would be developed by government through the farm’s life span.

Where it works

Solms-Delta, a model land-sharing farm in the Western Cape Farmer battles for government help in empowering workers

The farm Solms-Delta outside Franschhoek is regarded as a model for the kind of land sharing envisaged by the government’s new proposals.

Originally bought by neuroscientist Professor Mark Solms in 2002, a third of the farm now belongs to the Wijn de Caab Trust, in which the farm’s 130 workers are listed as beneficiaries.

The British philanthropist Richard Astor owns another third of the shares.

Tony Ehrenreich, Western Cape secretary of labour federation Cosatu, sees the farm as a model worth emulating.

“Solms-Delta shows that where fair land reform and real cooperation are advanced, social integration on farms gets stronger,” he says in reaction to the DA’s criticism of government’s plans.

The Solms-Delta model is more than a business plan; it’s a social and cultural project. “Big time,” says Craig MacGillivray, Solms-Delta executive manager.

The business part of the deal is mainly aimed at creating work for the community. The farm has expenses that cannot be found on the books of farms that are focused on profit-taking.

There is also a daycare centre and a wellbeing programme.

Solms found only mistrust when he arrived at the farm. But his medical background inspired him to look for the root of the problem.

And that’s how the farm’s history was, quite literally, unearthed. Excavations were done and the farm worker community’s culture and heritage was investigated.

That culture, which is very important to the community on the farm, is now embodied in Museum van de Caab, which attracts 30?000 visitors a year.

One of the workers, Johan O’Rayn, says the farm’s children can see that their world is not limited to the borders of the farm and the work that is done there.

“The most important thing on this farm is that everyone gets educated,” he says.

O’Rayn left Ceres for Solms-Delta in 1987 and was originally involved with irrigation on the farm.“If you look at the farm of 14 years ago?...?it’s almost like a miracle that took place,” says O’Rayn, who no longer shares a three-bedroom house with 13 other people.

This “near miracle” did not go unnoticed, with the government last week proposing this as a model for national land reform.

His eldest son, Johan (23), studied tourism and is now a sommelier on the farm. His second son, Shane (20), is also studying tourism.- Jan Gerber

Farmer gives workers a 10% stake. Here’s what happens

Three years ago, Mpumalanga farmer Colin Forbes allocated 10% of his land to his 34 workers with the aim of making them self-sufficient commercial farmers.

Forbes cannot do this alone so he has been seeking government support, particularly in compensation for the 560?hectares of his Athole Farm near Amsterdam.

Forbes has offered free mentorship, stood surety for his workers to access finance and let them use his equipment at no cost. But his initiative has still not received any support from government or organised agriculture.

But he hasn’t given up. His workers continue to learn and their maize harvest per hectare is increasing.

“Each hectare produced 7?tons in the first year. It was 8?tons the following year and this year we’re expecting 10?tons,” Forbes says.

He believes every farmer needs to impart his skills free of charge to develop workers, and that the state must buy a 10% portion of farms on behalf of workers.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti’s proposal that farmers give 50% of their land to workers is, according to Forbes, unreasonable. “A farm is something you invest a lot in and build over many decades. This plan is a clumsy one that will estrange farmers willing to help.

Since I started, government hasn’t engaged with me. My other source of frustration has been my fellow farmers. They have been in denial that they need to assist so they’ve not given creative thought to the land situation.”

Farm worker Anthony Maseko says Forbes’ mentorship has opened the farm workers’ eyes. “There are many things I didn’t know but they’re now becoming clearer. Forbes invites agricultural companies to come and speak to us and that helps. I’m looking forward to being a commercial farmer.”

Forbes has now extended a helping hand to 21 land beneficiaries on a 400ha neighbouring farm. “I’ve seen them failing year after year to produce. I’ll stand surety for them, too, and mentor them for free. Some of these people I regarded as my enemy because they’ve been arrested for stock theft, but they’ve responded positively,” he says.- Sizwe sama Yende

KwaZulu-Natal farmer says it is only right to share

Commercial farmer Mandla Buthelezi says he supports the idea of forcing farmers and their workers to share land.

The farmer from Ncombe in KwaZulu-Natal breeds cattle, and is busy setting up an abattoir on the 1?200-hectare farm he runs in the area.

Buthelezi and the members of his cooperatives are busy negotiating the acquisition of two more farms to grow maize and sugar beans for which he says there is a market in the area. The business has a bottom line of about R3?million a year, he says.

He endorses Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti’s proposal to have farmers share half their land with their employees. He says he has no problem with it because when farmers like him acquire land through government’s land distribution

and recapitalisation programmes, they are expected to work together with the tenants.

“They need to become part of the plan for the farm. You can’t be a farm holder or tenant for life. Being a farm dweller should not be their destiny,” says Buthelezi.

He adds: “If we don’t share solutions, we will lose. White farmers aren’t satisfying the need for food. There is a lot of importing and dumping [of agricultural goods]. That says we need to work together as a team. That’s the bottom line. If you prepare people for commercial farming, you’ll eventually overcome food insecurity.”

Although the trained teacher opted to become a commercial farmer after working as a commercial farmer development expert in the sugar industry, he says farming has always been part of his life growing up in rural Nkandla.

Both Buthelezi’s grandmother and mother farmed the

100ha land on which they lived.

He later learnt about kibbutzim in Israel, which he says taught him a lot about the need for cooperative and self-help in our agricultural industry. A kibbutz is a collective agricultural settlement in Israel, owned and administered communally by its members.

“We need to engage everyone in agriculture, we can’t have people in poverty. In KwaZulu-Natal, with fertile land, people are starving, yet agriculture is thriving in a desert like Israel.”

He says he thinks it is not a good idea for individuals to permanently own land. - Sabelo Ndlangisa

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