‘Budget is only part of restitution woes’ – De Jager

Organised agriculture believe there are more pressing issues to deal with than haggling over budget allocation.

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FINANCE MINISTER TREVOR MANUEL allocated R20,3million towards land reform and restitution over the next three years in the 2009/10 national budget, R29,7 billion short of the R50billion it needs to finalise pending claims.
Despite this, organised agriculture seems to believe there are more pressing issues to deal with than haggling over budget allocation. Both TAU SA and Agri SA pointed out land reform isn’t frustrated by funds, but rather by a lack of capacity, expertise and poor planning within the Department of Land Affairs and the Land Claims Commission.
Agri SA deputy president Theo de Jager said the commission created its own crisis by publishing more claims in the Government Gazette than originally registered before 1998. “Government inflated the number of claims it now can’t handle,” he said.
As an example, De Jager said in Magoebaskloof only six farms were claimed, yet the Land Claims Commission listed more than 500 in the gazette.
On a positive note, he said Manuel’s recognition of under-development and lack of farmer support on transferred land was like a fresh breeze.
“A key to transforming rural livelihoods is to better enable small-scale farmers to use land more productively,” Manuel told parliament.
“There have been no profitable farming operations on any of thousands of farms transferred to date in terms of the restitution process,” De Jager noted, saying there should be mechanisms to force the state to ensure farmer support to land reform beneficiaries. He added investor confidence is affected by the limitations which land claims inevitably place on the development, financing, selling or expansion of farming units, resulting in a decline in production. – Peter Mashala     |fw