Ramaphosa highlighted progress made in South Africa since the fall of apartheid 30 years ago in his address, held in Cape Town on Thursday.
One of the highlights for agriculture specifically was his mention that roughly 25% of farmland was now in black ownership, and that the country was on track to exceed the 30% target for 2030.
— Farmer’s Weekly (@FarmersWeeklySA) February 8, 2024
Francois Strydom, Agbiz chairperson, welcomed the recognition of land reform gains. “In the absence of adequate state support, the industry has played a significant role in this transformation through skills transfer and financial and technical support.
Acknowledgement of the progress is a breath of fresh air, especially after recent attempts to amend the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation,” he said.
Noko Masipa, the DA’s shadow minister of agriculture, however felt that Ramaphosa only scratched the surface in his reference to land reform progress.
“The president’s failure to grasp the hardships endured by these farmers is deeply disappointing and indicative of a disconnect from the realities on the ground. The crux of the matter lies in the intricate details overlooked in his statement. Many of these farmlands are lying idle, serving no purpose in the community.
“The frustration among farmers leasing these lands is palpable, as beneficiaries grapple with the challenge of raising capital, rendering the farms uncultivated unless they receive grants. Beneficiaries need title deeds. They are fed up with leasing and government’s red tape.”
Masipa added that the plight of genuine farmers was exacerbated by the fact that a significant portion of these lands had been allocated to ANC-connected cadres who lack farming expertise, further exacerbating the plight of genuine black farmers.
Along with this, Masipa felt that the president’s failure to acknowledge the resilience of farmers, amidst the dual challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine, demonstrated a blatant disregard for their critical contribution to our nation’s food security.
“Despite soaring input costs and the spectre of crime, farmers have steadfastly persevered to sustain our agricultural backbone. This oversight not only undermines the sacrifices of those in the agriculture sector, but also the urgent need for our leaders to prioritise and support those who labour tirelessly to feed our nation,” Masipa said.
Johann Kotzé, CEO of Agri SA, said the organisation acknowledged the progress highlighted in land reform initiatives, but stressed the need for concerted efforts to align with the objectives of the National Development Plan 2030.
“Agriculture stands central to this plan, and comprehensive strategies are imperative to address the sector’s challenges and capitalise on its opportunities.”
He also echoed Ramaphosa’s sentiment regarding the need for strong public-private partnerships to drive progress in key sectors such as energy, logistics and infrastructure.
“We are pleased to see tangible progress resulting from collaborative efforts between the sector and government in addressing key issues, such as logistics, energy, and combating crime and corruption, as highlighted by the president.”
Agbiz CEO Theo Boshoff commented that the address provided little in the way of policy direction for the coming year, and instead gave a status update on processes that are underway.
“This either indicates that the address is devoid of any new ideas or major announcements to stimulate economic growth, or it was an affirmation that the state is not deviating from commitments made in the previous SONA, but allowing critical processes to reform our electricity, logistics and water infrastructure to unfold.”
Boshoff added that business had invested a great deal of time, capital and goodwill into these collaborative efforts: “It seems as if these processes are being supported at a critical time when the temptation must be there to shelve longer-term pragmatic processes in favour of a populist approach. We hope this trend will continue after the election, as our economy sorely needs a dose of pragmatism.”
Bennie van Zyl, TLU SA’s general manager, was unimpressed by Ramaphosa’s account of progress made in fixing ports, logistics, poor service delivery and in growing the economy, saying the address was merely another performance staged to garner votes in the upcoming election.
“Over the past few years, agriculture has learned a very clear lesson about the difference between words and actions. We have learned that the promises made during SONA are not implemented. They are always empty words that mean nothing for South Africa’s progress. Just look at how our unemployment rate has risen from 29,1% in 2019 to 31,9% in 2024, and inflation has increased by 1,74% since 2019.”