KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) is finalising plans to create a land reform company to speed up transfers and post-settlement support, based on a model pioneered by the sugar industry.
Kwanalu president Robin Barnsley said the plan had been endorsed by all district branches and received wide acceptance from Agri SA and the relevant provincial and national government bodies. He expected it to be operational within weeks.
T he move follows the creation of a provincial land reform forum, with representatives from black and white organised agriculture and commodity groups, land activist NGOs and government officials. Kwanalu hopes the often antagonistic relations between these role-players will be replaced by more constructive interaction. “We have convinced our members that land reform is crucial to the long-term sustainability of agriculture,” said Barnsley.
The move was apparently strongly supported by provincial agriculture minister Mtholephi Mthimkhulu. Kwanalu’s plans for a land reform company come amid farmers’ widespread anger at being blamed for the slow pace of land reform. Government is finalising its review of the willing-buyer, willing-seller model which, it says, is preventing enough farmland from becoming available on the open market for redistribution to blacks.
Proposals include targeted expropriation and government’s right of first refusal on all land sales. But there is widespread evidence government lacks the administrative competence to buy land currently traded on the open market. Farmer’s Weekly has seen ample correspondence from landowners throughout South Africa frustrated in their attempts to sell their farms to government. Surveys in KwaZulu-Natal apparently show that in several farming districts 45% to 50% of landowners are willing sellers, which means government could readily exceed its target of transferring 30% of white-owned farmland to blacks by 2014 simply by buying these properties. “are not prepared to sit idly by and be castigated as unwilling sellers,” said Barnsley. “I can go to any farmers’ association meeting in the province and find plenty of people who want to sell.
Farming is a tough business, with low returns, and many farmers want out.” Heightened political tensions around land delivery prompted Kwanalu to take a proactive stance. “The state is not using the available opportunities, so we have decided to do it ourselves,” said Barnsley. he initiative is likely to be modelled directly on Inkezo, the not-for-profit company that has chalked up notable successes in speeding caneland transfers. It employs full-time staffers to broker land deals for black farmers between government and willing sellers, screen applicants for suitability and ensure continued technical support. is funded by the SA Sugar Association, largely because milling groups wanted to ensure transferring land ownership did not jeopardise security of supply.
Options for funding the company include foreign donors, who have apparently expressed a keen interest, and charging a brokerage fee for land transactions. Funding by commodity groups and Kwanalu members through a levy is not seen as feasible at this stage. – Stephan Hofstätter