Land solution?

Minister Nkwinti shares his department’s plans to reverse the effects of the 1913 Land Act.

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At the National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (Nerpo) AGM held at St George’s Hotel in Pretoria recently, farmers called for the speedy conclusion of the green paper on land reform. They were worried that the upcoming general elections would affect progress on the drawing up of the white paper.

One can understand the potential frustrations caused by post-election political reshuffling. Nerpo general manager Aggrey Mahanjana said the organisation was concerned that a new minister would start his or her own process. Although not originally invited, Minister of Rural Development and Land reform Gugile Nkwinti was available and Nerpo therefore asked him to address the AGM and provide an update on the green paper. This he did, and surprised everyone by saying that there would in fact be no white paper following the green paper.

Instead, Nkwinti said that his department planned to implement aspects of the green paper, such as establish the Land Valuer General office and Land Management Commission. I was particularly impressed with his plans to reverse the effects of the 1913 Land Act. We all know the results of this notorious act, especially the high concentration of black people in small areas, which has negatively affected the environment. Many communal areas are degraded and suffer from major soil erosion and deforestation due to overgrazing by too many livestock.

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In fact it was as a result of this very problem that Nkwinti was available to speak at the Nerpo AGM; he was in the same hotel holding a workshop with his staff to discuss ways of remedying the situation. According to Nkwinti, the department intended implementing the Animal and Veld Management Programme in order to reverse these devastating effects of the Land Act of 1913. What particularly impressed me was that the programme also set out to address a major problem that land reform has been facing: people are given state land but are unable to produce.

The trouble is that land has been awarded to the wrong people; the state has given farms to anyone who is black, irrespective of whether that person can farm or not. Nkwinti said the programme was looking at relieving pressure in communal lands and possibly rehabilitating them. The department planned to move communal farmers out of villages and into state-owned properties of between 50ha and 200ha.

Nerpo to help
According to Nkwinti, there was plenty of vacant land available for this, including state farms bought for land reform purposes. He added that his department would be counting on organisations such as Nerpo to help identify those farmers in communal areas who wanted to be moved to state farms. This is what many commentators have been saying all along. The only way to ensure that land reform farms do not fail is to place existing farmers on the land instead of creating new ones.
The minister added that he liked consulting with people.

“It gives me an idea of what people think beyond the reports I read, which are written by officials. Sometimes, these reports are not very accurate,” he said. Mr Minister, I could not agree with you more!