Gordhan throws another R2 billion at land reform

In his medium-term budget policy statement, finance minister Pravin Gordhan indicated that he had awarded the cash-strapped Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) a R2 billion appropriation.

- Advertisement -

According to DRDLR spokesperson Mtobeli Mxotwa, some of the money will be spent on clearing the department’s debt to farmers who sold their farms to the DRDLR but were never paid. “This amount will be apportioned to various gaps and shortfalls within the department,” he explained.

“All our projects are under pressure. We need to pay farmers, we need to move on with financing various rural development initiatives and we still have our mandate to give land to the landless.” However, it’s likely “plugging the gaps” will take more than R2 billion. According to Annette Steyn, the DA’s shadow minister for rural development, the DRDLR admitted it owed land claim beneficiaries R3 billion in outstanding payments for post-settlement grants.

Earlier this year the department pegged its total debt at R12 billion. Failure to pay farmers for their land had resulted in 21 court cases, for which associated costs were rising all the time. “Our department needs a lot of money, but government is short of money, so we’ll have to work with whatwe have.

- Advertisement -

It can be adequate,” said Mxotwa.Prof Mohammad Karaan, dean of the University of Stellenbosch’s AgriSciences department, said identifying what was wrong with land reform is one of the key problems facing agriculture. “It’s in a mess, because the focus was always on land, not people,” he said. “We need to develop a system where any black person who wants to be a farmer must graduate in order to get state support to become a black farmer.”

To “graduate” a person must get a relevant degree, or diploma, have several years of practical work experience, be in a mentorship programme, or make their own financial contributions, said Prof Karaan.