White farmers coming forward with offers to share land, says minister

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Tebogo Letsie, City Press)
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Tebogo Letsie, City Press)

Cape Town – Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told Parliament that white farmers are already approaching her department to discuss offering their land up to the state’s land reform initiatives.

The minister was tabling her budget vote in the Old Assembly Chamber on Friday morning, and presented ambitious land reform plans for the 2018-19 financial year. However, MPs raised concern that the department’s funding is getting cut in the face of fresh resolve to expropriate land.

Nkoana-Mashabane told Parliament that, contrary to the narrative of discord, many white South Africans landowners are happy to approach government to assist in enriching the land reform discussion in a way that prioritises food security and economic stability.

“White farmers are already coming forward with offers to share pieces of land. Those who find that they are willing to do so are welcome to approach us, but as things stand we are working strictly by the provisions of section 25 of the Constitution, which allows for expropriation with some compensation,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

She said the department plans to get 98 100 hectares of productive land for financial partnerships and initiatives under Operation Phakisa, and has settled 80 664 land claims.

More than 2 million beneficiaries have been awarded land from claims, said Nkoana-Mashabane.

However, she stressed that it is not good enough that in 2018 land reform initiatives have been continuously undermined by illegal occupations, forced removals of vulnerable farm workers and a land claims backlog.

African National Congress MP Nosilivere Magadla said while she accepted the minister’s budget vote, the R725m budget cut Nkoana-Mashabane’s department would suffer in the 2018-19 financial year bodes ill for government’s land reform ambitions.

“The budget of the department does not speak to the urgency of land reform. It is just 1% of the fiscus. The decline of funds in the department should be seen in the context of the performance of the economy,” said Magadla.

Democratic Alliance MP Thandeka Mbabama said landless communities have been waiting for years to receive the land they hoped for, but that the department has let them down by failing to do its work.

“Instead of transferring the ownership of land that is owned by the state, it works through land under a willing buyer-willing seller basis and leases it off, instead of title being secured and giving it to the people it claims to represent,” said Mbabama.

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