State moots move to take 50% of farms for workers

2014-04-06 14:00

The government is considering far-reaching new proposals to expropriate half of every commercial farm in South Africa and hand it over to farm workers.

These draft proposals are contained in a document titled Final Policy Proposals for Strengthening the Relative Rights of People Working the Land, which was discussed with agricultural organisations on Monday.

According to the document which was leaked to City Press’ sister publication Rapport:

» The historic owners automatically retain half of their farms. The state pays for the 50% taken for the workers.

» However, the money is not paid to the current owners, but into an investment and development fund (trust) for all shareholders in the land. This is for the further development of the farm.

The motivation here is that landowners have already benefited sufficiently because of what the document calls “exploitative wages” and advantages received in the past.

»?The workers get shares in a farm on the basis of their contribution to the development of that farm, based on their number of years of service.

The document says these moves are designed to put into practice the conditions of the Freedom Charter, which states that people must share in the wealth of the country and that the country must be ­divided between those who work it.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said: “The plan sounds good. But we need time to study the detail.”

He said the federation supported the idea in principle.

“Farm workers and communities should be the chief beneficiaries of land reform projects.”

The department of rural development and land reform has already discussed the final proposals with AgriSA and other agricultural organisations like the African Farmers’ Association of SA and the ­National African Farmers’ Union (Nafu). The last meeting was held on Monday.

Dr Theo de Jager, the deputy president of AgriSA, said his and other ­organisations in the sector had already opposed earlier drafts of the policy ­proposals.

This was on the grounds that it was unworkable and probably unconstitutional, he said.

“They could possibly lead to disinvestment in the sector and also threaten food security.”

Dr Mandla Buthelezi, senior vice- president of Nafu, said workers must be uplifted, but the farm owner had the expertise and must have greater powers to make decisions for the whole farm.

“The plan must be discussed ­further.”

Frans Cronjé, chief executive of the SA Institute of Race Relations, said that in view of the current budget deficit, it’s obvious that the money is not available for these plans.

“Even if the policy is implemented, the state will in the end not pay for the farms.”

Cronjé said this policy should be read together with the expropriation legislation that allows the state to seize assets without compensation.

“The proposal would make it impossible to run a farm. How can any ­business be successfully managed if there are two or more CEOs?”

It would lead to the downfall of most commercial farms, he said.

The department of rural development and land reform said the proposals were widely submitted to stakeholders, including organised agricultural bodies.

So far, five consultation sessions had been held where both support and ­opposition had been received, said ­Linda Page, the department’s chief ­director of communications.

“The department is continuing to ­receive input. All opinions will be taken into consideration, and we hope to reach consensus to achieve the ­intended goals,” said Page.

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