Bongani Linda farms with sugar cane in the Stanger district on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast. As a beneficiary of the land reform programme, he bought a farm in 2002. He has since developed his land and personal profile in the farming community. Today he is a director and executive committee member of the South African Cane Growers’ Association and a member of the development committee of the South African Sugar Association.But a land claim gazetted in January this year has turned his world upside-down.
My experience with land reform has generally been a very happy one. Because of government’s land reform policies, I
own and work a farm which bought in 2002 from Tongaat Hulett. I’ve been drawn into farming, the sugar industry and the farming community by my miller and by my neighbouring commercial farmers.
When listen to stories from other agricultural sectors and other farming regions, feel I’ve been lucky to get involved in sugar cane. For example, at the point of entry, my miller helped to package the deal and got in with minimal problems. Also, during the first five years, the interest on my loan was subsidised by my miller. There have been problems here and there, but they have been minor.
and other new entrants have received a lot of industry support, including bookkeeping services, extension services and training. This made it easier to enter the sugar industry than it might have been to enter other agricultural sectors, except for the normal problems that most farmers experience and the fact that the returns from sugar cane farming are not always that enviable.
Despite the challenges, I’ve been able to expand my farm by buying a neighbouring farm and bringing my total land holding to 180ha. It’s still not a very big operation, but I’m happy with it for now.
I was hoping to expand it more in the near future, but first need to sort out a land claim and am trying to get a formal meeting with the regional land claims commissioner to explain my situation to him. I’ve benefited from government policy in the form of a Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) grant at the point of entry, and Comprehensive Support Programme (CASP) funding for replanting some of my fields and buying farm inputs, in which the local office of the agriculture department has played a vital role.
Now there’s this land claim and I’m asking, what happens from here? been fortunate that my financial house has not had a knee-jerk reaction to the claim on my land. They’ve indicated they will still extend the necessary production credit to me despite the land claim. But should continue investing in this property?
I’m doing everything can to keep my farm, but if lose it, where do go and what will do? These are the questions that worry me. But while waiting to hear from the commissioner, decided to be proactive and I’ve joined my area’s landowners association in disputing the validity of the claim.
When it comes to land reform, the biggest problem for me and a few other farmers I’ve spoken to in the area is that while benefited from the initiative to redistribute land and reform the economy and the country, I’ve now been put in a position where could be displaced. don’t see any provisions in government’s policy for a person like me – a land reform beneficiary who now has a restitution claim on his farm.
This is a concern in my area and a neighbour has commented that it seems government doesn’t care about us as individual black emerging growers, vis-à-vis the community claims that need to be settled. – Jasper Raats |fw