Addressing land claims ‘threat’

2014-07-30 00:00

THE re-opening of land claims represented a “real threat” to agriculture, but ways would be sought to mitigate the effect on commercial farming in KZN, Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Cyril Xaba said yesterday.

He spoke in Umhlanga yesterday at an event held by legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright to celebrate the appointment on May 1 of Sbu Gule as chairperson of the global group.

Gule grew up in Pietermaritzburg.

Norton Rose Fulbright has 43 international offices, including five in Africa — in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Casablanca and in Dar es Salaam.

Xaba was responding to a question from a guest about the farming community, which is struggling with investment uncertainty created by the re-opening of land claims, rising input costs and tightening of employment equity regulations.

Xaba said there were challenges in agriculture in the province — farm produce was being imported, where once it was exported, and the biggest portion of restituted land in the province was lying fallow.

Fifty-five percent of the cattle in the province live on communal land, yet the commercial sector produced far more meat with less cattle, he said.

There needed to be more of an interface between the communal and commercial cattle sectors to improve the capacity of subsistence farming, Xaba added.

The MEC said the issue of land restitution needed to be approached in terms of a “win-win situation” for all the stakeholders in the province.

Moses Tembe, vice chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Growth Coalition, said he had seen too many business owners that had become “cowards” and “armchair critics” of the government and labour.

These type of businesspeople also added little value in improving the environment that businesses operate in, said Tembe.

“If we can grow the economy by five percent-six percent, we will make it easier to address the social ills,” he said.

Xaba said discussions were under way with a Chinese vehicle manufacturer to set up a plant in Durban.

An automotive supplier park was being negotiated for the city, he said, without disclosing further details.

These type of investments typically generate substantial employment and economic growth opportunities for a city.

The MEC said there was likely to be shortage of electricity in the province in the future, due to a limited and aging transmission network and the ongoing problems being experienced by Eskom.

He said the provincial government was investigating the establishment of an energy trading agency that would help to support the emergence of independent power producers in the province.

“We need to work with all our social partners to take this province forward,” said Xaba.

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