Land talks: Departments’ no-show upsets delegates

2010-11-12 00:00

FAILURE by government departments to attend a land summit hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) on Tuesday has heightened disillusionment and frustration among land reform activists and civic organisations who say they no longer know who to turn to.

This is not the first time that government departments have failed to honour invitations from civic organisations.

Earlier this year they snubbed an invitation extended by the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union.

The organisers of this week’s summit said that except for the Land Bank and the Agri-Development Agency, none of the land affairs and agriculture government departments had taken up the invitations.

Among the departments that failed to attend were Land Affairs and Agriculture and Environmental Affairs.

Tim Houghton, the programme supporter of the summit, said it was an opportunity for the government to clarify issues around land and agriculture for all the stakeholders. The theme of the summit was “Facilitating dialogue on land issues”.

He said many of the participants were upset by the no-show and they believe the government is not paying serious attention to addressing the land issues in the province.

“The problem is that there are many issues that need to be sorted out with the help of government officials, and their failure to attend the summit on Tuesday left many people frustrated because they no longer know who to turn to for help.

“One of the problems they needed clarified was the issue of land claims, as we all know that the claims have a negative impact on production.

“Another issue is the lack of support for the many emerging black farmers who are given land and left to their own devices without any form of support, which normally causes them to fail.”

Houghton said the snub by the government has been a let-down for many stakeholders.“The government has missed the opportunity to assist in sorting out the land problems in this province.”

He said there are many established local commercial farmers who are ready to mentor the emerging farmers, but still need directives from the government.

Despite the snub, Houghton said, the summit was a success as it allowed for the clear identification of problems relating to land and hence its impact on agriculture. It also allowed for stronger co-operation among the civic organisations dealing with land.

“At this point, all the organisations can do is to extend the invite to the government and help fight and solve the problems in land,” said Houghton.

Ncumisa Mafunda of the Agriculture and Environmental Affairs Department, said they were not aware of the summit and the department was not available for comment.

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