KWAZULU-NATAL MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikalala told Ixopo farmers on Tuesday that it was critical that while farming was growing in the area, it should also be of benefit to all.
Zikalala said no one should be left behind in the periphery of this key economic development sector and reiterated that the policy of land expropriation without compensation was not the reversal of apartheid.
The MEC was speaking to dozens of farmers from the Ixopo Farmers Association and Harry Gwala Agri on ways to sustain agriculture and also to deal with the land question.
Ubuhlebezwe is endowed with vast hectares of agricultural land that produces sugar, maize, timber, crops, citrus, and has a thriving and well-established livestock.
Zikalala, who is also the leader of government business in the province, bemoaned the slow pace with which land transformation has transpired over the years, saying there has been little effort in terms of participation from the private sector and the agricultural sector.
He moved to allay fears, saying the country can ill-afford to “go the painful route” of Zimbabwe.
“Dialogue is key to our effort to solve the land question. Africans in particular would seem not to participate in farming due to a number of factors, one of which is dispossession. They are not participating due to lack of land,” he said.
He reiterated that in the past years the government has spent a lot of money buying land.
“Indeed those selling land have been charging exorbitant amounts of money. So we are here today to engage you on how we can implement our policy. All we want is to build a new society where everyone is benefitting and where no one is left in the periphery,” he said.
Zikalala said it was important for black Africans to be integrated into the mainstream economy to ensure that in 20 years’ time prosperity is attained by the country.
“So our aim is to work with you on the best model of distributing land. This is not the reversal of apartheid or employing further means of dispossession by the ANC government,” he said.
Commercial farmer Bruce Allwood thanked the government for its efforts to engage with armers. He said farmers were willing to work with the government and with emerging farmers to unlock further the economy of the area.
He conceded that transformation was indeed taking place in Ubuhlebezwe but that it needed to be done properly.
Allwood said they have initiated a programme where emerging farmers sell their maize to dairy farming enterprises that support the entire dairy industry.