‘LulLama shoots hot air from the hip again’

Land and agriculture minister Lulama Xingwana came out guns blazing against farmers in parliament last week, promising large-scale expropriation and welcoming the likely results of plummeting land values.

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Land and agriculture minister Lulama Xingwana came out guns blazing against farmers in parliament last week, promising large-scale expropriation and welcoming the likely results of plummeting land values.
She reportedly told journalists at a media briefing that it would make it easier for black farmers to gain access to land. Her predecessor, public works minister Thoko Didiza, said later that Xingwana’s remarks had been in jest.
Xingwana also said government planned to redistribute 5 million hectares to black farmers within a year. Tthis is more than government has transferred in the last 14 years, but Xingwana is said to consider the target realistic because of government’s plans to move away from the willing buyer, willing seller principle. move includes the tabling of legislation touted as a mechanism to curb land-price escalation, which would make it easier for government to expropriate farms for land reform at below market value, introduce a land tax and introduce a ceiling on the amount of land a single person or entity could own. “We hope that with all these [measures] we can fast track the process,” said Xingwana.
She promised that foreign land ownership would be regulated, following last year’s submission to the department of a report that recommended stipulating the owners’ race on title deeds, as a first step to achieving this. Nnone of the recommendations to curb foreign ownership have been implemented yet.
Xingwana also promised that the vast majority of land claims would be settled by the end of 2008. Claims are being held up by communities squabbling over boundaries and farmers disputing their validity.
President Thabo Mbeki initially set 2005 as the deadline for settling all land claims, but later extended it to March 2008. The deadline has not officially been extended again, but there is widespread recognition at senior government level that several large rural claims could drag on for years.
Black and white farmers’ unions reacted with dismay to Xingwana’s comments. Agri SA warned devaluing farm land would have a ripple effect on backward and forward linkages and could devastate rural economies. The African Farmers’ Union (Nafu) urged government to be responsible when talking about land reform, and to release vast tracts of state land available for redistribution. TAU SA said Xingwana’s comments confirmed a long-held suspicion that government wanted to bring down land prices to be able to redistribute land cheaply, and this was gambling with the future of all SA farmers.
Other observers dismissed her comments as more posturing from a minister who has achieved little else since taking over from her predecessor. “We all know she likes making these statements but she will never achieve these things,” said a government source. “We must not take it too seriously.”
Xingwana is also fond of launching investigations with murky outcomes. They include last year’s Public Service Commission probe into staff performance at land affairs, which has yet to be concluded, let alone implemented; a forensic investigation, last year, into financial mismanagement at the Land Bank, at great cost and which was never acted on; and a probe by the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) into possible misappropriation of funds at the Wine Iindustry Ttrust. Iin a report submitted a year ago, NAMC recommended the trust be shut down and its trustees dismissed. Xingwana has taken no action to date. – Stephan Hofstätter