Mbeki urges farmers to ally with unionists

2012-02-03 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Commercial farmers should box clever when trying to protect their interests by seeking allies in the trade union movement, political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki said yesterday.

This was his advice to AgriSA at a conference organised by the F.W. de Klerk Foundation in Cape Town.

He was responding to a presentation on land reform by AgriSA deputy president Theo de Jager.

De Jager told the audience that the restitution process was the biggest man-made disaster to hit agriculture since the Anglo-Boer war.

Farmers were watching the situation in Zimbabwe, and asking themselves what they could do differently while they had the chance.

“We have two options — the route of confrontation, which would be very disruptive, or the route of negotiation,” De Jager said.

Mbeki replied: “I want to urge that he chooses confrontation — get a consultant to help. This consultant is called Cosatu to help them choose the route of confrontation.

“I think you forget the power of the farmer. It is not just the farmers that produce food, it is also the farmworkers.

“You have allies in your farm workers. Who are your farmworkers? They are members of Cosatu, Solidarity, Fedusa … Why don’t you work together with these allies to help protect your interests,” Mbeki said.

In his presentation, De Jager said commercial agriculture was in a difficult position because of the way land reform had been handled over the past 12 years.

There were 13 000 farms under claim, but the process was at a standstill.

“If there is a claim on a farm, there is no further development or investment. There is also no financial support for production available.

“The government only pays 60% of market value in restitution, which makes banks hesitant to finance anything on a farm under claim.”

AgriSA has approached Chapter Nine institutions to try to get help with a sort of “secondary restitution”, De Jager said.

The reason for this was because the land claims process allowed any­one who lost land since 1913 through apartheid or who were not properly compensated for land taken from them, to lodge a claim.

“Farmers are being forced to sell for 60% of market value.”

“Restitution should have a second round in which farmers can claim what they were denied,” De Jager said.

• The minimum wage for farmworkers will go up by R127,96 a month on March 1, the Labour Department said yesterday.

The hourly rate will increase R7,04 to R7,71; a weekly rate of R317,51 to R374,10 and a monthly minimum wage of R1 375,94 to R1 503,90.

This was calculated on an ordinary 45-hour week and would apply until February 28, 2013.“

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