Make a land plan, farmers told

2012-02-22 00:00

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Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson made this request in the form of a warning to AgriSA’s policy congress yesterday.

Looking ahead to the ANC’s policy congress from June 26 to 29 in Midrand, she said, “The policy congress is approaching. The debate about land reform will be very heated. I undertake not to express myself in favour of the nationalisation of land, but we must accept that the principle of willing buyer, willing seller is not working.

“I have requested this before, and I’m asking you again: what is organised agriculture’s alternative? … You don’t have Alzheim­ers …

“And don’t blame administrative chaos for slow land reform. We concede the point, but the principle is also wrong. I’m warning you: you must come up with an alternative.”

Free State Agriculture president Louw Steytler said all legal advice showed that the minister’s statements contradicted Section 25 of the Land Act, which guaranteed property rights.

AgriSA president Johannes Möller welcomed the minister’s undertaking not to call for nationalisation, but said property rights had already been curtailed by water rights and mineral rights, which had been taken over by the government, and farmers were longer allowed to deny trespassers access to farms.

Other agricultural leaders irritably pointed out that it was not their task to think up plans for the government. They were businesspeople and favoured the willing buyer, willing seller principle.

Joemat-Pettersson admitted that she did not get to see farmers often enough, but blamed the media, the Democratic Alliance’s parliamentary questions and the Public Protector’s investigation into her spending of taxpayers’ money.

She also castigated delegates for the fact that agriculture was still so racially segregated, questioning why so few white farmers were involved with the Masibambisane rural development initiative and the Zero Hunger campaign.

Regarding flood relief aid in the Northern Cape, she said the money was available and the Northern Cape provincial departmental head had already signed off the process at the beginning of December, but had not yet been able to get an appointment with the director-general to have the money paid over to the farmers.

She did not, however, give any indication of steps she had taken as a result of this conduct.

National Woolgrowers’ Association chairperson Harry Prins­loo tackled the minister directly about her ignorance in linking Rift Valley fever to problems with wool exports.

Möller said the minister could solve her department’s problems if she used the technical know-how available in the country, but she wasn’t doing so.

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