Post-settlement support, forced removals and succession on land reform farms remain major drawbacks as Minister Thoko Didiza announces budget

Silindile Nyathikazi

Although the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has so far managed to allocate 50 percent of state land for agricultural purposes, support for new farmers and land inheritance issues are likely to remain a thorn in the side of the Minister, Thoko Didiza.

Didiza recently reported back on the allocation of land parcels that included communities who have been utilising state land, farmers whose leases had either expired or had no allocations made to them to women (50 percent), the youth (40 percent) and persons with disabilities (6 percent). 

Didiza said that the Department set the target deliberately for these groups and in October last year had “outlined a process that will affirm the tenure rights of those who have been utilising this land following the land enquiry process,” she said at the time.

There were also frustrations that farmers have experienced over the past few months “that have amplified the need for a complete overhaul of our system of property as a department,” said Didiza.

The Rakgase, Cloete and Zigana cases were mentioned as cases in point where black farmers were threatened to be removed from productive farms.

Didiza also noted “challenges” brought about by certain farms in Rust de Winter being under claim and continued to vow that government would ensure that farmers with valid leases in this area will continue with their farming operations and that “the deeds registry will also ensure that farm leases earmarked for farmers are registered to create certainty from the financial institutions and interested investors.”

But while applauding the release of this state land and lease offers being made to beneficiaries, the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) said the government also needed to provide the necessary post-settlement support.

“In many instances, farmers access land without post-settlement support to ensure and this means that they cannot fully utilise the land. Farmers would have leases but no post-settlement support to use the land which proves constraining for the beneficiaries,” said Researcher at PLAAS, Nkanyiso Gumede.

President Cyril Ramaphosa hands over title deeds to farmers in Groblersdal, Sekhukhune District Municipality in the Limpopo Province. However serious challenges still face land reform beneficiaries [Photo: GCIS]

In October last year Minister Didiza also announced that beneficiaries would be subjected to a compulsory training programme and although many black farmers all over the country have been farming on state land for decades, another obstacle facing farmers voiced by AgriSA is “the lack of tenure security which has been a severe constraint on their ability to access credit and to grow into commercial farmers.

Market access and repayment capability as well as a lack of extension services are also impeding their ability to grow. Title deeds will however not only give these farmers tenure security, it will enable them to use their properties as collateral for loans and will provide an incentive for investment into the farms,” said Annelize Crosby, Head of Land and Legal at AgriSA.

Gumede echoed Crosby’s sentiments stating that: “At times beneficiaries cannot make long-term investments since these farms remain state property and there is no guarantee that their families will inherit the land in the event that the primary beneficiary is deceased  which at times would concern the beneficiaries, and at times lead to beneficiaries withholding investment on farms.”

The department also continues to face several issues when it comes to land administration as it grapples with how to deal with communities using land for settlement rather than agricultural purposes.

In her budget vote, Didiza reported that there are 116 farms totalling 127 743 hectares which are occupied by communities and that the department has not yet reached its fifty percent allocation it had set for itself.

An ongoing  land inquiry involving the departments of human settlement and water affairs, environmental, forestry and fisheries will determine the future of these communities.

On matters concerning land restitution, the department said it had settled 240 old order claims in the last financial year and committed to accelerating these however no update on land tenure developments which Chief Economist at AgBiz, Wandile Sihlobo says “is important in strengthening land rights and the necessary prerequisites for investments in agriculture.”

Also pointing to the urgency required to move on the department’s land enquiry, Gumede said: “The time is about right for the department to introduce the Land Reform Framework Bill which will help to guide the implementation of land reform and also create accountability measures that are currently missing.”  – silindile@mukurukuru.co.za

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