Anger over land failures

2009-12-11 00:00

THE staggering failure of the Land Restitution Programme became the subject of a heated debate yesterday at the 30th anniversary of the Association for Rural Advancement (Afra) as numerous claimants attacked the Land Affairs Department.

It is estimated that at least 50% of the projects of the land restitution programme have collapsed.

Claimants say the lethargic pace at which the department is processing their claims and the lack of adequate after-claim support are behind the collapse of many farms.

They described the department’s ambition to redistribute 30% of commercial farms to black farmers as impossible, saying that even if the department is able to force through that target, it will be devastating for the agricultural sector.

William Mnyandu, one of the claimants and the chairperson of the Ekuthuleni Community Property Association, said that although they put their claim in in 1996, they have yet to see any “productive fruits” of that process.

He questioned the government’s intention of redistributing 30% of white-owned farm land to black farmers, saying that will be disastrous for the country.

“The government wants to redistribute 30% of the land, but that will mean that the country has gone down by 30%, because you cannot put the farm on restitution and then not properly look after it.”

He cited the lack of operational capacity in the department as the major cause of the many failures in the land restitution programmes and called for each of the projects to be assessed and dealt with efficiently to make them a success.

Richard Clacey, a board member and treasurer at Afra, labelled the billions of rand spent on the projects as a poor investment as there were no social or economic returns. He said those billions could have been better used elsewhere.

Clacey said the department is failing in its mandate because it is protected by the Constitution.

“Land restitution is in the Constitution so it has to happen and that has protected the department from public scrutiny.”

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