Victoria West farmers in the Northern cape are taking court action against Telkom, because they say it refuses to repair a vital telephone line in the area. Johan Berg, a sheep, cattle and game farmer from Beyersfontein and 15 other farmers are demanding the immediate repair and maintenance of the Pampoenpoort line. T his line, stretching along the road between Victoria West and Carnarvon, has been out of commission since September 2007.
Although the farmers have paid their rent, Telkom has done nothing to date, Berg said. claimed that cable theft is the reason for delays, but Berg said he has proof that the cables were never stolen. “It’s rather the shocking neglect of infrastructure by that’s causing the problems,” he said. “We don’t have cellphone coverage, so imagine driving 70km for every phone call you have to make. This means that I can’t phone a market agent before committing to an auction or keep contact with my other business interests. There are also safety concerns with women and children alone on farms and should there be medical emergencies, ambulances or doctors can’t be contacted. Without that line, we are completely cut off from the world.” – Wouter Kriel
Shelving Expropriation Bill is not enough, says union
While it seems government has cooled down its efforts to push the controversial Expropriation Bill through parliament, organised agriculture has expressed concern over the future of the proposed legislation. “This is a very dangerous document hanging over the head of South African agriculture. People will not invest if the threat is not removed entirely,” warned Dr Theo de Jager, who heads up Agri SA’s land reform committee.
Currently, the chairperson of the portfolio committee is waiting for a verdict from the parliamentary legal advisers, but the general feeling is that certain aspects will be declared unconstitutional, Agri SA’s parliamentary spokesperson Annelize Crosby reported. But Dr De Jager said it’s going to take more than a temporarily shelving of the Bill to restore investor confidence in the sector. “South African agriculture is already footing the bill for this controversial piece of legislation.
One simply has to look at the first-time trade deficit we have in agricultural produce to realise this,” he said. As resistance from corporates and international investors has built up in recent months, it now seems government has realised that its drive for cheap land reform has lost ground in light of high food prices due to expensive imports – a direct result of disinvestment in the sector. “It’s ironic that many farmers suddenly feel more confident investing in a country such as Mozambique where landownership is not certain.
And over the past three months the number of willing sellers in Limpopo has already increased by between 20% and 25%,” Dr De Jager remarked. Agri SA’s deputy president, Johannes Möller added, “It was especially the nature of expropriation powers which would have vested down to municipal level, the issue of compensation and the role of courts in the expropriation process that were of concern to the agricultural community.
And the manner in which property rights are treated determines the behaviour of private enterprise in the economy. Legislation which affects property rights should therefore be considered with circumspection, which was not the case. “Unfortunately the Expropriation Bill has already sent out negative messages to investors and businessmen. Agri SA therefore trusts that in the event of the review of the Bill, care will be taken that it fosters and does not erode confidence,” Möller said. – Wouter Kriel & Jasper Raats