Land Bank may face Govt

2009-07-19 13:23
Cape Town - The Parliamentary Monitoring Committee on the Land Bank said it was urgently seeking a meeting with three ministers to obtain a "political solution" to stop repossessions of black-owned farms in debt.

Committee chair Mlungisi Johnston said on Friday that a meeting was necessary before July 28, the date when the first farm of an unknown female farmer in Limpopo Province is due to be taken back by the Land Bank.

"Members of the committee do not accept reasons put forward by the bank to justify its plans," said Johnston.

"We must first investigate this because it is a huge setback for land reform and the stated policy of transferring 30% of agricultural land to black farmers by 2014. 

"We are awaiting the date of the meeting with the ministers of finance, land affairs and agriculture, forestry and fisheries," he said.

Committee members also planned to visit some of the farms in early August to find out directly from the farmers why they failed to pay their loans.

"We want to see if there are genuine cases where the farmer perhaps tried very hard but was faced with problems beyond his control."
Several factors such as lack of access to markets, skills and finance have plagued South Africa's emerging farming sector for the past 15 years. 

Government's agricultural development financing arm, the Land Bank, has only committed 6% of its entire loan book to this sector. Millions was missing from the bank after a sordid history of mismanagement and corruption by bank officials operating under the auspices of the former agriculture department.

Details of four forensic audits on the bank are expected next month when the annual report is tabled in parliament, according to the bank's acting CEO, Hadebe Phakamani.

Land Bank spokesperson Musa Mchunu said on Friday the bank was aware of the "new process" by parliament's monitoring committee and would not unilaterally go ahead with repossessions until the committee's meeting with the ministers had taken place.

Meanwhile, IFP committee member, Russell Cebekhulu, told that he had not yet received a list of the embattled farms he had asked the bank for, but confirmed the IFP wanted to know the reasons for the collapse of the farms.

"We feel it is not possible to give land to groups of people or to whole communities. Those groups run into tension and end up not cooperating with one another."

Cebekhulu said the IFP wanted to see the Land Bank support only "individual and committed black farmers". 

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