Beware of just chasing that 30% goal – Nkwinti

Some 21% of sugar cane land is currently under black ownership, up from 5% in 1994, SA Sugar Association (SASA) chairperson Bongani Linda said at a sugar cane industry event in Durban on 30 August.

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“We are the only commodity organisation to have achieved this result,” he said. SASA is confident of achieving government’s target of transferring 30% of commercial land to previously disadvantaged South Africans by 2014, said Linda. However, department of rural development minister Gugile Nkwinti said SA should not be preoccupied with chasing the 30% target. The reason there’s a problem with land reform is that, in most cases, a farm starting off as a going concern collapses.

“This obsession with 30% by 2014 does not speak to food security at all,” said Nkwinti. Because of the problem with collapsed farms, 25% of the baseline budget of land reform (about R900 million) was funneled into recapitalisation and rural development in 2009. “By the end of the last financial year, we had recapitalised 595 farms,” said Nkwinti. “That money could have been used elsewhere, but we had to go back to recapitalise farms bought since 1994, because we’re chasing that 30% target.

“As South Africans, we’re wasting a lot of money chasing a small figure of 24,5 million hectares.” This is done at the expense of restitution, said Nkwinti, adding that, this year, one-third of the budget will go to redistribution and two-thirds to restitution. 
Meanwhile, according to SASA’s comprehensive database, 130 000ha, or 39% of commercial sugar cane farms, are subject to gazetted land claims, with willing sellers for 29 268ha. Settling these claims should be a priority as delays lead to a drop in production, which would impact on the viability of mills, said Linda. 

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