ANC's land plans economic suicide, warns Agri SA

Johannesburg - Agri SA warned on Thursday that should Section 25 of the Constitution be amended to allow for land expropriation without compensation, financial markets would divest and investor confidence in SA be shattered.

Agri SA questioned why the ANC resolved to amend the law to allow for land expropriation at its recently concluded national conference, citing the previous findings of the High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change led by former President Kgalema Motlanthe.

“[It] recently found that the biggest challenge standing in the way of land reform is not the property rights clause, but the implementation of land reform policies, procedures and extended entrenched corruption in the system,” Agri SA President Dan Kriek said in a statement.

The agricultural lobby group highlighted that the agricultural sector was driving GDP growth following the nationwide drought, and was the best performing category across the first three quarters of 2017.

The ANC on Wednesday resolved to begin work to amend section 25 of the Constitution which guarantees property rights, and change it to allow for expropriation of land without compensation. The only proviso to this is that the party said it shouldn’t harm agricultural production, food security or other sectors of the economy.

Agri SA said it wants to discuss the policy decision with newly elected ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa and other party leaders. 

“We challenge the ANC to explain to South Africans how the proposed amendment of the Constitution would enhance production or successful development of new farmers.

"Agriculture has the largest growth potential of any sector in the economy and we should work together to explore and capitalise on this opportunity,” the organisation said

Agri SA said there are other methods aside from expropriation to empower emerging farmers and rural communities, such as security of tenure, which it argued would unlock funding opportunities for new entrants in the sector.

President of the resident of the World Farmers' Organisation, Dr Theo de Jager was also scathing of the ANC’s new policy direction.

“The fact is that these resolutions cannot attract investment. And agriculture needs investment. It can create much needed jobs in rural areas, but agriculture in South Africa should compete with the best in the world, as it does at the moment.

"New investment is needed in agriculture technology, and new markets explored to enhance South Africa’s competitiveness,” he stated.

Ramaphosa, in his closing address delivered early on Thursday morning, said the conference unanimously backed land expropriation without compensation but promised it would be undertaken in a responsible manner.

Changing the Constitution 

In order to pass an amendment to the Constitution, the ANC will require a vote with a two thirds majority in parliament. The party has 249 of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, or 62.25%.

But if the EFF's 25 MP's were to vote in concert with the ANC, the amendment could be passed, provided there were no more than 10 no votes or abstentions in total. 

The magic number is 264 votes out of 400. 

EFF Secretary General Godrich Gardee tweeted the party will vote with the ANC to push for expropriation without compensation.

According to a land audit published by Agri SA last month, white farmers own almost three-quarters of South Africa’s agricultural land, while the amount of land owned by the government and black people stood at 26.7% in 2016.

Data from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries shows that farm debt to commercial banks stood at about R89bn in 2016.

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