Land claim delays ‘will create suffering’

2010-03-02 00:00

DELAYS in settlements of land claims will destabilise societies and cripple the agricultural sector, say local land rights organisations.

The organisations were speaking after the recent disclosure by the Rural Development and Land Reforms Minister, Gugile Nkwithi, that the target to redistribute 30% of commercial land to black farmers by 2014 will not be met.

Nkwithi cited the large amounts of money needed to settle outstanding claims as the main stumbling block. “We cannot raise R75 billion by 2014 to acquire the 82 million hectares of land that we have targeted ... we just don’t have the money,” he said.

The organisations said that already too many farms are caught up in the process, causing frustration not only for those involved, but for the economy too.

The Association for Rural Advancement (Afra) said that while it is clear the deadline will not be met, the announcement has dealt a crippling blow to agriculture.

“There are many commercial farms that are tied up in claims and hence production and investment there have almost halted, because who will invest in land whose ownership is being disputed?” asked John Aitchison, director of Afra. He said such delays would destabilise societies and threaten an already jittery agricultural sector.

“By the department’s own admission, some of the land that has been redistributed is lying idle with the people unable to develop it, and with the farmers reluctant to invest in land under claims that will strain the agricultural sector.”

The Landless People’s Movement also condemned the delays, saying it means more suffering for people who are without land. Spokesman Mnikelo Ndaban­kulu said, “The majority of people who are without land are poor people and this delay only means that they will continue to suffer.”

Sandy La Marque, CEO of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union, said that despite the setback, they were pleased that the minister has committed the government to ensuring food security and facilitating an environment in which agriculture will take place freely.

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