Land reform share scheme mooted
Kirby van der Merwe and Pieter du Toit, Beeld
Pretoria - The government is looking into a shares scheme for black farmers with the aim of reaching land reform targets and replacing the willing buyer/willing seller principle.
In terms of this scheme, commercial farmers will have to hand over up to about 40% of their farm's value to black shareholders.
Tina Joemat-Pettersson, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said in an interview with Beeld on Monday that this new plan may be included in a revised black empowerment charter for the agricultural sector.
This follows her announcement last month during the department's budget speech that she is dissatisfied with the slow pace of transformation, and plans to have targets for black economic empowerment (BEE) enshrined in legislation.
This plan was met with astonishment in agricultural circles on Monday. Agri SA said it has no knowledge of such a plan. Pieter Mulder, FF+ leader and Joemmat-Pettersson's departmental deputy, also knows nothing about this plan.
The minister said on Monday that the government's aim of transferring 30% of the country's agricultural land to black ownership by 2014 has failed due to the willing buyer/willing seller system. Only five percent has been transferred so far.
The agricultural community and the government have reached a deadlock.
"If we don't break the deadlock and solve the land issue together, we're heading for a situation which will make Zimbabwe look like a teddy bear picnic."
She said discussions with the organised agricultural sector about alternative BEE models will continue, but that accelerated land reform is unavoidable. According to her, farmers have a choice either to co-operate or dig their heels in.
"We have to wake up... we need to stop sticking our heads in the sand and decide together how it (land reform) will happen, because if we don't, we're heading for disaster," she said.
According to her, the suggestion of an agricultural shares scheme will be discussed in September at the ANC's interim national conference.
New approach to land reform
Joemat-Pettersson's comments correspond with similar statements made by Gugile Nkwinti, minister of rural development and land reform.
He has already submitted a green paper to Cabinet about the government's new approach to land reform, including alternatives to the willing buyer/willing seller principle.
An announcement in this regard is expected shortly.
Johannes Möller, president of Agri SA, said he regrets that Joemat-Pettersson is concerning herself with BEE and ownership, when she is supposed to promote agricultural issues.
According to him, the empowerment charter which was signed in March 2008 is the product of extensive negotiations involving all role players.
"Now we have to start negotiating all over again. We spent years discussing BEE with the Department of Trade and Industry... if it concerns land issues, we speak to Nkwinti's department... ministers should stick to their portfolio functions."