Thousands apply for government land earmarked for agriculture

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Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza at a press briefing before her budget vote speech on Tuesday. (Jan Gerber/News24)
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza at a press briefing before her budget vote speech on Tuesday. (Jan Gerber/News24)
  • More than 5 000 people applied for state-owned land made available for agriculture.
  • In October, Didiza announced around 529 000 ha of land amounting to 894 farms across the country were earmarked for release.
  • It's, however, been alleged that some government officials had written letters of eviction to individuals and communities on state land.

In less than a month, government has received more than 5 000 online applications for state land that will be made available for agricultural purposes.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said hundreds more applications were handed in at the department's offices.

On Tuesday, Didiza gave an update on government's reform plans during a media briefing in Pretoria.

At the start of October, Didiza announced 700 000 hectares of land would be made available for agricultural purposes.

READ | Govt set to release 700 000 hectares of vacant, underutilised land for agriculture

In October, Didiza announced around 529 000 ha of land amounting to 894 farms across the country were earmarked for release on 15 October 2020.

"We indicated that the state land in question comprise of land that is currently occupied by individuals and communities who are residing in state land without the lease agreements; communities who applied for the 30 year lease and their applications were never finalised and those who have never applied for state land, but are interested in performing agricultural activities," Didiza said.

She also said a land enquiry process would be undertaken to determine the status of occupation and how such lands were given to these communities or individuals.

"This process will ensure that proper procedure for formalisation and regularisation is undertaken. This is a way of enabling the state to have a record of which farm is occupied by who and what activities are being undertaken in that particular state-owned land," she said.

ALSO READ | Ramaphosa says he'll deliver on land promise, empower more black farmers

Any investment made by the beneficiary must be recorded, valued and reported to the state. Beneficiaries would pay a monthly or annual rental fee per hectare determined by the state, consistent with the value of the land in line with area valuation.

A credit management system would be put in place to manage debt recovery and management.

Failure to comply with any of the contractual obligations listed above, the state would consider the option of terminating the lease.

Didiza said it's been alleged that some government officials had written letters of evictions to individuals and communities on state land.

"In some instances, there have been allegations of our officials demanding bribes of hundreds of thousands of rands to access land. This conduct is unacceptable and criminal. We want to advise our communities to bring these issues to the office of the acting-director general for attention and to the nearest police station," she said.

Didiza said the main purpose of the land reform process was not to destabilise the agriculture sector. "[It is] to put in place a state land administration and management system that ensure security of land tenure, stability and provide an opportunity for sustainable food security and economic growth," she said.


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