Has the ANC reached its ceiling?

Land reform proposals mooted at the Lekgotla may be preparing for the state of the nation address said Dr Theo de Jager, transformation leader and president of the Pan African Farmer’s Organisation.

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“Both Gwede Mantashe and the Minister of Agriculture know that 12 000ha in Tzaneen and 12 000ha in the Karoo are not the same thing,” said De Jager. He speculated that there may be some attempt to cage rattle on the part of the ANC since they knew this type of scheme could not work.

A land ownership ceiling of 12 000ha on individual owners and on company owners was recently proposed at the ANC’s policy Lekgotla at Irene said secretary general of the ANC Gwede Mantashe on Wednesday. In addition to the land ceiling land ownership by foreign nationals is to be prohibited he said.

“The worrying aspect of this is the effect it has on foreign communities to invest in South Africa.” Some foreign countries had asked how SA’s government could plead at international forums for investment in the country and then virtually at the same time propose a ban on foreign land ownership De Jager said.

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“It seems that there is something deliberate about this.”

The land ceiling could not be applied in a blanket manner said Aggrey Mahanjana, secretary general of Afasa, echoing De Jager’s sentiments.

“This blanket system will not work.Think of the differences farm sizes between say the Northern Cape and the Midlands of Kwa-Zulu Natal,” said Mahanjana.

At commodity levels there were distinctions in the amount of land required to operate successfully he said quoting the example of a game farmer and a chicken farmer. “Even in the same agro-ecological region there may be graduations in rainfall that require alternative agricultural practices and acreages that do not comply for the norm in that district,” he said. Above all, farming needed practical solutions to problems and this proposal was not practical he said.

Charl Senekal, chairman of Pro-Agri and SA’s foremost sugar farmer, said the announcement of the proposal came as a shock to him.

“I don’t think this has been properly thought through, nor can it be constitutional,” said Senekal.

A move of this kind would effectively take out 30% to 40% of the high volume producers in the country, which would not only stop food production, but would also have serious implications in the downstream value chains and cause major job losses he said.

Foreign investors in the wine areas of the Western Cape brought major tourist revenue to the country and the percentage of land owned by foreigners in SA was not such that it constituted any sort of threat said Senekal. The proposal on land ceilings was disappointing said Senekal, nevertheless the big commercial farmers remained committed to helping the sector and the government so that the country could progress in agriculture and in other spheres.

“We want to take solutions to the table, not problems,” said Senekal.