Land reform beneficiaries owed R3.4bn – minister

The government has failed to pay R3.4 billion in post-settlement

grants to beneficiaries of land reform with potentially damning consequences,

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti has said.

Recipients in 389 cases had not received grants, the minister said

today in reply to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance.

He warned that this could lead to a change of land use on farms, a

decline in crop production, an inability to maintain infrastructure, a lack of

skills transfer to beneficiaries, community conflicts and even farm

invasions.

“Farm invasions could take place where beneficiaries cannot occupy

farms as result of delays,” he said.

Nkwinti said Mpumalanga was the province most affected by the

failure to pay grants, with 173 reform projects still owed a total of

R2.6bn.

Next came the Eastern Cape, where 49 projects were awaiting R395m

from state coffers. In the Western Cape, 17 projects were owed R196m. Some of

those waiting for money were from families evicted from District Six.

Nkwinti pointed out that grants were not paid directly to

beneficiaries by his ministry, but transferred to “an acting agent”, most likely

the relevant municipality, as directed by the Public Finance Management

Fund.

The minister did not provide reasons for the withheld payments.

In March, Nkwinti suggested that the government’s land reform

programmes had not been sustainable and confirmed that the target of

transferring 30% of agricultural land to black farmers by 2014 would not be

reached.

He revealed that at least nine out of 10 of emerging farmers given

land under the government’s land reform policy had failed to make a commercial

success of their farmland.

A total of 5.9 million hectares had been redistributed since the

end of apartheid but 90% of that land was not productive.

In response to the problem, the government was planning to release

millions of rands this year to recapitalise failing farms.

Nkwinti said land restitution and redistribution had been

bedevilled by the lack of capacity of those who received land to “continue

producing effectively and optimally on the land”.

In March, introducing his budget vote in the National Assembly,

Nkwinti caused a stir when he announced that his department would soon propose,

in a green paper, a three-tier system of land tenure.

He denied that this meant nationalisation was on the cards.
 
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