‘Farmers are not to blame’

2010-09-10 00:00

THE government should stop blaming commercial farmers for the failures of the land reform process.

Robin Barnsley, president of farmers’ body KwaNalu, said at the organisation’s annual congress yesterday that, with the exception of a few individuals, farmers have done all that is necessary to ensure the success of the land reform process.

He blamed corruption and dereliction of duty by department officials and maladministration as the causes of the slow process of land reform.

Barnsley said farmers are eager to fast track the process as its current pace has led to the escalation of tensions and violence in the rural areas as well as undesirable policy chan­ges by policy makers trying to rescue the largely failing programme.

He said the industry is already gripped by violence that has left several farmers and their labourers dead.

“The statistics show that the agricultural sector is suffering significant damage at the hands of the criminals,” he said, noting stock theft, farm attacks and murders perpetrated against all residents on farms.

During the conference, families and relatives of the people who had lost their loved ones in farm attacks were asked to lay flowers in front of a memorial fountain at the Royal Showgrounds erected by KwaNalu.

Barnsley pointed to changes allegedly mooted in the green paper on land reform, which include the review of the willing buyer and willing seller principle and capping the number of hectares that may be owned by one person, as signs that commercial farmers are being targeted.

“While not in disagreement with the state as to the slow ineffective approach to land reform, we are concerned that the underlying reasons [for the proposed changes] revolve around the allegation that commercial farmers are hindering the land reform process.”

Annelize Crosby, the Agri SA parliamentary liaison officer, urged government first to assess the causes of the failure of the current process before it engages in any drastic land reform changes.

Farmers at the conference called for the government to actively engage commercial farmers to ensure the success of the land reform process.

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