News24

Minister warns farmers to co-operate

2010-03-29 22:36

Cape Town - Gugile Nkwinti, minister of rural development and land reform, on Monday fired a volley in the direction of the agricultural community by warning them to "co-operate" to prevent a crisis "worse than Zimbabwe" in our country.

Moreover, it seems the theme of land nationalisation is, despite promises to the contrary, still on the agenda, since the minister himself is in favour of it.

In an interview with analyst Justice Malala on the eNews channel, he said black South Africans want agricultural land to be nationalised because that's what they were promised during the struggle years.

"That is the opinion of black South Africans... and mine too. The people want to see radical land reforms."

Three-level land tenure system

This follows weeks of controversy after the department's strategic plan which, according to observers, amounts to land nationalisation, was tabled.

Nkwinti said last week during his budget speech that the government won't simply seize land or change the Constitution, but is proposing a three-level land tenure rights system.

Nkwinti's evident attack on farmers stands in contrast to what he said in the past regarding the role of commercial farmers in the land reform process.

During an interview with Beeld in November last year, he praised farmers for their dedication to the restoration of land rights and had nothing bad to say about them during a recent Agri SA congress in Somerset West.

Nkwinti told Malala that a second Zimbabwe must be prevented.

"If they (the farmers) don't realise they have to co-operate... then they will be held responsible for creating conditions which could lead to something worse than the situation in Zimbabwe."

No threat to food security

He said the government does not intend to change the Constitution, and that the new green paper on land reform will help with the framework in which the transfer of land takes place.

He also feels a radical revolution won't threaten food security because "it will provide new farmers with the opportunity to produce".

Frans Cronjé, deputy chief executive of the South African Institute for Race Relations, said that despite Nkwinti's words to the contrary, that "the nationalisation of lands is, indeed, government policy, it says so, black on white".

"He denies it, but it's in the strategic plan. If it were something that shouldn't have been part of the plan, why isn't the director-general - Thozi Gwanya, who compiled it - being repudiated?

"I simply don't believe them. I'll even go so far as to say that they're lying."

Cronjé feels these kinds of plans will do irreparable harm to our country, and mean the end of South Africa as an independent, successful democracy.

"I can't imagine that the majority of black South Africans, who couldn't get the right to own property for hundreds of years, would be willing to simply hand it over to the state."

Johannes Möller, president of Agri SA, regrets Nkwinti's "double speak" and said, as a result of this, his organisation's planning focuses only on the short-term, "but we're still willing to co-operate".