We want title deeds – farmers to Nkwinti

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti should reconsider the new land acquisition system under which black farmers are not given title to land.

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This was according to Mike Mlengana, president of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa), speaking at a recapitalisation workshop held in Johannesburg recently. Mlengana said farming, like any other business, worked on the basis of certainty. The refusal of the state to give title to black farmers created uncertainty, which blocked development.  Farmers on more than 600 state-owned farms attended the workshop and called for government to hand over the title deeds to the farms they occupied.

Mlengana said many black farmers did not have security of tenure which made it difficult for them to invest in the farms. He said Afasa understood concerns that farmers could resell farms once they held the title deeds or that farms used as security could end up in the hands of banks. But he said that government did not have to resort to a blanket solution. Contracts could include clauses offering the government first option to buy the farms.

Aggrey Mahanjana, MD of the National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation (Nerpo) said there were people who wanted to invest in agriculture, but that it was “difficult to invest in infrastructure on land that is not yours”. Mahanjana said that any black farmer who wanted to buy a farm must be given the opportunity to do so. But there should be certain conditions.

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“The farmer should have leased the land for more than five years and proven he could farm profitably before exercising the right to purchase the land,” said Mahanjana. “The state should be given first option to buy should the farmer no longer use the land,” he said. Mahanjana said the state should have the right to expropriate in cases of inappropriate land use.

Mthobeli Mxotwa, rural development and land reform spokesperson, said South Africa was no exception and that in many other countries land belonged to the state and farmers leased it from government. “It can’t be fair that taxpayers’ money is spent on buying land for black farmers and yet the farm ends up back in the very hands we buy it from.” Mxotwa said the department had a budget of R1,6 billion for the recapitalisation programme which farmers could use for infrastructure development.