Land reform report: Agriculture groups unhappy about its 'obviously flawed' content

Two South African agricultural groups are unhappy about a report on land reform that endorses the expropriation of land without compensation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the multi-disciplinary advisory team on land reform and agriculture that compiled the report, which was released on Sunday.

But Southern Africa Agri-Initiative (Saai) chairperson Theo de Jager said the report was "obviously flawed because it was not morally justifiable".

He said it was wrong for individual landowners who legally bought their properties to foot the bill of land reform as a national responsibility.

"It avoids any reference to how agricultural financing – as one of the cornerstones of competitive primary production in South Africa – will be affected. Every farmer in South Africa runs the risk of losing a farm or two, but the banks can lose all farms that serve as security for their product financing."

De Jager said he was disappointed about the superficial, over-simplified and one-sided version of the history of land ownership, saying it contained blatant falsehoods.

"As a result, the panel and its members position themselves as inciters of division and racial tension, rather than a solution-driven influence on the land issue."

He said there was an "exaggerated emphasis" on the rights of farm squatters.

"There is no hint of a reference to overgrazing, arson, crime or intimidation that landowners have to endure daily in South Africa at the hands of farm squatters, in the worst security environment in the world. The panel's real intentions are all too obvious."

Agri SA executive director Omri van Zyl said the report contained controversial recommendations, including amending the Constitution and land ceilings.

"Agri SA does not support any policy or legislation that infringes on property rights or any other fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. If the recommendations contained in this report are implemented to the letter, food security for all South Africans will be compromised."

Van Zyl said that while Agri SA president Dan Kriek was a member of the Presidential Advisory Panel there were fundamental differences in opinion and approach to land reform within the panel.

Kriek and fellow panel member Nick Serfontein compiled an alternative report with a focus on private sector solutions.

"The alternative report presents identifies common-sensical solutions to land reform, which is lacking in many aspects of the panel report," said Annelize Crosby, Agri SA policy head of land.

Crosby said land reform in farming areas would take a huge step forward with the establishment of an agricultural development agency "where the private sector takes a leading role in driving and financing sustainable land reform".

She said time-consuming consultation processes that would likely follow the panel report could hamper the implementation of land reform.

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