Agri SA: Extending land claims would be ‘a man-made disaster’

2011-06-10 00:00

THE agricultural union, Agri SA, has warned that any extension to the deadline for land restitution claims would be the “biggest man-made disaster” in the country’s agricultural sector.

The organisation was responding to the announcement by Gugile ­Nkwithi, the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, that he supports the demands of thousands of people who were forced off their land but had missed the deadline to file their claims.

The minister reportedly said there is logic in the call to extend the deadline to accommodate all the people who had failed to file their claims on time. He said the matter would be referred to cabinet for a decision.

Nkwithi also conceded that the land restitution process has been slow and often not accurate. He said the department has often done poor research and verification of the land claims and the whole process has taken place under great time pressure.

He said there is only R2 billion available for the land claims process this year. His department would need about R40 billion to meet the policy objective of delivering 32% of 82 million hectares of arable land to black farmers.

Agri SA deputy president Dr Theo de Jager told The Witness yesterday that any extension to restitution claims would be disastrous.

He said there are already 13 000 farms that are not functioning to capacity as they have been gazetted for the past 10 years.

Hundreds of other farms have gone bankrupt as they struggled to operate because they were under claims, De Jager said..

Many more farms, including those that have been handed back to the claimants, are struggling due to lack of follow-up support for the claimants.

“Due to the failure of the department to finalise the land claims process, banks no longer agree to use the land as collateral when granting loans and they are looking at doing away with such collateral altogether,” said De Jager. “ This process is costing us operational capital.”

He warned that no extension should be granted. “At this rate claimants will be claiming land from other claimants.

“With the government planning to backdate the land claims process to before 1913, the Khoi San people could easily claim the whole of South Africa,” he said.

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