R200 million boost for Riemvasmaak claimants

A consortium led by the cultivar management company CitroGold will pump an estimated R200 million into the Northern Cape Riemvasmaak community land claim.

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A consortium led by the cultivar management company CitroGold will pump an estimated R200 million into the Northern Cape Riemvasmaak community land claim. Rural development and land reform minister Gugile Nkwinti launched the project, which government hopes will become a model of success, at a handing over ceremony on 19 June. The title deeds to 47 000ha of commercial farmland were handed over to 172 land claimant families. This is a final stage in the handing over of a claim totalling 74 000ha.
Riemvasmaak is one of South Africa’s most prominent land claims.
During apartheid, the community was classified as Namas, Coloureds and Xhosas. They’d been living in a 74 000ha area bordering the Augrabies Falls National Park north of the Gariep River for centuries. In the 1970s, they were forcibly removed to make way for a military weapons testing and training facility. The Namas were taken to Namibia, the Xhosas to the former Ciskei in the Eastern Cape, and the Coloureds to a township in the area.
In 1994, the community became one of the first to successfully reclaim their ancestral land. Within two years, many had returned, although it has taken them over a decade to be awarded title to the full 74 000ha, including a 4 000ha chunk of Augrabies park which was deproclaimed by parliament in 2004.
In that time, despite launching several promising projects, including farming joint ventures and ecotourism projects in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, poverty levels remained high because larger commercial ventures failed to take off. This was partly because of weak institutional arrangements at community level which resulted in infighting and corruption, and discouraged investment.
Northern Cape officials told Farmer’s Weekly the community trust is currently dysfunctional because its leaders were arrested, accused of embezzling money. The trust remains under court administration until the case is concluded.
Government hopes the new business model will safeguard investors from institutional failures inherent in the current community-based land reform model.
The CitroGold consortium will lease up to 700ha from the beneficiaries and will produce grapes, pomegranates and figs, mostly for export. It plans to allow a structured skills transfer programme to take place over 20 years.
“The main reason for project failures has been bringing the community in too early,” says Bruce Cook, CitroGold managing director. A skills transfer programme followed by the transfer of assets is far more sustainable, he says. “In agriculture, you farm for your children. I think government is beginning to understand this.”
The consortium’s estimated R200 million investment will pay for the establishment of vines and orchards, farm infrastructure including dams, pump houses and a road network, as well as processing facilities in state-of-the-art packhouses. It’s expected to create 200 permanent and 400 temporary jobs, and serve as a catalyst for commercial agricultural production in the district.
The community will hold an indirect stake in the CitroGold consortium, paid for by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), full ownership and management of an incubator pilot project funded by the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), and a majority stake in goat rearing operations. The consortium has also set aside a portion of development costs for an education fund that will train local people in skills ranging from the supervisory to scientific. This is expected to create the skills needed to run the project once CitroGold exits. – Stephan Hofstätter