News24

Farmers fear nationalisation move

2010-03-16 22:10

Johannesburg - Farmers' lobby groups on Tuesday demanded clarity on a proposal that agricultural land become a "national asset", which they fear is a move towards nationalisation.

Although Land Affairs director-general Thozi Gwanya said the government was not considering nationalisation, and that making land a national asset was just a land reform "option", Agri SA and The Agricultural Union of SA (TAU SA) want a direct answer on the matter from Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti.

"After several days' conjecture to declare productive agricultural land as a national asset which should be nationalised, TAU SA is dumbstruck that no point of view from the president or any of the ministers have been forthcoming to clarify the matter," said TAU SA president Ben Marais.

Land invasion fears

He did not believe that Gwanya's explanation was sufficient and said there was confusion over the matter.

He also said talk of nationalisation of farms could be followed by land invasions, as happened in Zimbabwe, and referred to a Freedom Charter principle that the land should belong to all who work it.

Agri SA said it was planning a workshop with the department of rural development to thrash out its concerns, following a recent meeting.

At this meeting they discussed the "almost total failure" of land reform and farmer development initiatives with about 200 restitution projects requiring urgent attention.

"Agri SA indicated that participation would only be possible if the position of all parties, including Agri SA affiliates, is spelt out in a guideline agreement," a statement said.

It also wants clarity on risk sharing, expectations and conflict resolution mechanisms, said the group which represents about 70 000 farmers.

Chinese communist model

It had appointed a working group to consider proposed recovery projects and models for co-operation, and a workshop would be held at a later date for further discussions on co-operation.

These concerns follow recent heated debates over the nationalisation of mines, which ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema insisted was part of the Freedom Charter, although President Jacob Zuma said the government had no plans to nationalise mines.

One of the models the government was considering, according to reports on a green paper to be released in May, was that all land become a "national asset".

This was in line with the Chinese communist model in which farmers pay rent to the state which owns the land.

Govt land failing

Last year it emerged that more than half the farms bought by the government as part of its land redistribution programme for agricultural development had either failed or fallen into decline.

More than 90% of the 5.9 million hectares of land the state bought for emerging farmers was not productive.

This meant that the agricultural sector's portion of the gross domestic product could drop.