Land: The people speak – Black farmers need resources to be successful, says land claim beneficiary

2018-06-29 16:52
Members of the public line up in Tzaneen, Limpopo, to participate in the public hearings into the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

Members of the public line up in Tzaneen, Limpopo, to participate in the public hearings into the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

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Land expropriation without compensation will not help black farmers if government doesn't give them adequate financial assistance to farm the land.

"Getting land [without the money to make it productive] is like being poor and getting a Ferrari, you will struggle to buy fuel," up-and-coming black farmer Solly Letsoalo told the Constitutional Review Committee in Tzaneen, Limpopo, on Friday.

He was speaking at a public hearing into amending section 25 of the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation.

"The resources, the mechanisms to make that land to be workable are not there, that has always been the problem. 

"If the plan is that let us amend section 25 so that we can get land, it's good, but where is the money going to come from?" 

READ: The Land: South Africa Speaks - Limpopo residents say land claims and reform failed

Letsoalo, who obtained his farm through a land claim, was disrupted and heckled throughout his contribution to the review committee. The committee is made up of representatives from various political parties including the EFF's Julius Malema, Cope's Mosiuoa Lekota and the ANC's Refiloe Moremadi Mothapo. 

Those who agreed with Letsoalo's view of not amending the Constitution, but instead dealing with the challenges that have arisen through land reform policies currently in place, were in the minority in Tzaneen. 

Speaking to News24, Letsoalo said section 25 was never a stumbling block to the restitution of land, but that government would rather change the Constitution than face up to the deep-seated issues within land reform.  

"The government has come up with reasons to say it [land restitution] has become impossible. It's not."

He said the government just didn't "want to go deeper into the corruption, into the loopholes of the system that make it impossible for black farmers, or black people" to benefit from land restitution.

He added that one of the issues was the failure of government to provide adequate assistance to enable the success of black farmers. 

"Farming is not just the green crops that you see. Farming is engineering, farming is bookkeeping, accounting. Farming is hard work, it's machinery, farming is chemicals – all of which is expensive," Letsoalo said. 

"If government is failing, say for example, 100 black farmers, now if they have one million black farmers, how will they be able to assist? If they can't deal with the smaller problem in assisting the black farmers, once there are a lot of them where will they get the money?" he asked.

Letsoalo, who owns land just outside of Tzaneen where he grows crops, has been struggling recently because of water shortages and the lack of assistance from government. 

A white conveyancer from Tzaneen who was also against amending the Constitution had similar views to Letsoalo's. He told the commission that the reason so many black farmers weren't successful was not because they couldn't farm, but because they were given farms without operating capital.  

The hearings continue.

Read more on:    land expropriation  |  land hearings  |  land

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