Despite the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa in the State of the Nation Address that the ANC would urgently pursue policy reforms that would pave the way for the expropriation of land without compensation, the figures presented in the 2018 budget indicated that it would be business as usual at the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) for the next three years at least.
According to the 2018/2019 Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE), over the medium term (2018/2019 to 2020/2021), the department would receive roughly R33,2 billion, out of which R10,8 billion, or 32,3% of the total budget, had been allocated to land restitution, and R8,7 billion, or 26,2% of the total budget, to land reform, with both programmes receiving modest annual increases over the next three years.
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said in the budget speech that, over the medium term, the DRDLR would accelerate the settlement of restitution claims with plans to finalise 2 851 claims over the next three years.
“Accelerating land reform has become urgent and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has set aside R4,2 billion for the acquisition of about 291 000ha of strategically located land [to ensure that redistributed land becomes productive and profitable],” Gigaba said.
According to the ENE, this money would be allocated to the department’s Agricultural Land Holdings Account sub programme, which “acquires land and creates productive and profitable farms”.
Gigaba said that an estimated R581,7 million would be reprioritised by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) from the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme grant for the black producer commercialisation programme, which would aim to create and support 450 sustainable and profitable black commercial producers over a five-year period.
“By creating opportunities for black agricultural producers, we are radically transforming the agriculture sector,” he said.
The department’s total budget was expected to increase at an average annual rate of 4,5%, from R6,8 billion in 2017/2018 to R7,8 billion in 2020/2021.
The minister also announced that DAFF would receive an additional allocation of R40 million over the medium term to upgrade infrastructure and equipment for the analytical services laboratories in Stellenbosch and Pretoria.
“This will provide assurance to global trading partners that South African agricultural products meet internationally recognised standards for human safety, thereby facilitating our ability to export unhindered.” A further R70 million was allocated over the medium term for inspection services to increase and strengthen capacity at ports of entry to improve plant and animal quarantine services.
Treasury’s response to the drought crisis included, according to Gigaba, a provisional allocation of R6 billion for, amongst others, drought relief and the augmentation of public infrastructure investment, as well as disaster relief grants for provinces and municipalities worth R473 million in 2018/2019.
Gigaba also expressed concern about the potential job losses in vulnerable farming communities as a result of the drought.
“We are therefore exploring the option of partially mitigating losses by temporarily increasing intake in the Working for Water programme,” he said.