Nkwinti’s department under pressure to spend

The land reform department’s recapitalisation and development programme for failed land reform farms has got off to a slow start, with the department spending less than 20% of the R900 million available within the first eight months of the current financial year.

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To date 840 projects have been identified and advertised to attract strategic partners. But land reform director general Mduduzi Shabane recently said in parliament that only 128 projects were selected, which amounted to a total of R151 million.He was briefing the parliamentary oversight committee for rural development and land reform on progress made by the department’s recapitalisation programme.

Shabane said the department had transferred around 6 million hectares of land to more than 200 000 beneficiaries since 1994, but that most of these projects had collapsed.The department proposed a strategic partnership model to resuscitate the failed reform farms. Instead of relying solely on government extension services to give support to beneficiaries of land reform projects, the new model would consist of the farmer, the state and a strategic partner.

This could be a mentor, such as a commercial farmer, or an established agribusiness enterprise, explained Shabane.Funds would be released after the strategic partner had submitted a credible business plan for a project or cluster of projects in a farming area, he added.However, with only four months remaining of the current financial year, the department now seems to be under pressure to spend the remaining 80% of the R900 million budget or risk losing these funds.Committee member and DA MP Annette Steyn said the pace at which the department was moving at present was too slow.

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“The biggest problem doesn’t lie with money, but with planning and implementation,” she added. She told Farmer’s Weekly she doesn’t think the department will be able to spend the budget allocated for recapitalisation and development before the end of the 2010/11 financial year.At a recent media conference on farm equity schemes in Cape Town, rural development minister Gugile Nkwinti said his department wanted to lift the moratorium on farm equity schemes by January.

He said they would be working overtime to get the moratorium lifted because they still had to spend most of the R900 million earmarked for the recapitalisation and development programme, which includes getting farm equity schemes up and running again, during the 2010/2011 financial year.

The department seemed confident that if the moratorium was lifted by January 2011, at least part of the R900 million budget could be spent on these schemes. However, they don’t have a very good track record when it comes to keeping self-imposed deadlines.One example is the release of the long-anticipated land reform Green Paper.

In his budget vote Nkwinti announced that the Green Paper would be submitted to parliament by the end of April. When the department failed to meet this deadline, a new publication date was set for the end of May. This was moved further back to mid-July. A draft version of the Green Paper was leaked in November, but the official document has still not been released.

Nkwinti in ‘farms for friends’ allegation

Rural Development and Land Reform minister Gugile Nkwinti has been accused of giving a cattle farm to his friends while he was agriculture MEC in the Eastern Cape.  According to The Sowetan newspaper, Cope MP Mlindi Nhanha is investigating the Gorah Land Reform Project in Kenton-on-Sea, for which Nkwinti allegedly drew up a list of 20 beneficiaries. One of these beneficiaries was Nomachina Zweni, the wife of Nkwinti’s long-time friend, Zola Zweni.

Nkwinti denied any wrongdoing, telling the newspaper he didn’t determine who the beneficiaries would be, but only supported the lists that were brought to him.According to the report, Nkwinti blamed the allegations on a group of “youngsters”, who broke away from the ANC to join Cope and who were plotting against him. He also accused the Kenton-on-Sea Pam Golding Properties office of paying for the group to travel to Bisho to lodge a complaint of nepotism against him with the Eastern Cape premier.