A lifetime of waiting – in vain

In this open letter to Minister Gugile Nkwinti, farmer Gideon Morule argues that government land policy aimed at blacks is as oppressive as apartheid laws.

A lifetime of waiting – in vain
- Advertisement -

‘Minister Nkwinti: I’m not an economist or a researcher. I’m the ordinary son of a farm worker, a historically disadvantaged individual, and a product of Bantu Education. In reply to your letter declining my application to exercise my right to purchase a farm, I must state that I’m disappointed, hungry and angry. The little arithmetic I know tells me that a 300ha leased farm with only a dilapidated perimeter fence – part of which was constructed in 1910! – will have a carrying capacity of 10ha per mature livestock unit (MLU) at best.

This means that such a farm could accommodate no more than 30 MLUs. A farmer could sell perhaps 10 weaners a year from this herd, generating an income of R25 000 if a weaner fetched R2 500. If the farmer employed two workers, his annual wage bill, in accordance with the minimum wage prescribed by the Department of Labour, would be R1 100 x 2 x 12 = R26 400. And this is before spending a cent on any other aspect of production! Any farmer content with such a situation would be silly. Dit is om agteruit te boer. (It’s going backwards.)

Temporary sojourners
Armed with my practical farming experience, which stretches over three-and-a-half decades, I’m also certain that, with the right infrastructure and diversifying his operations, such a farmer could increase his income tenfold. I’m also convinced that a half-a-million rand turnover is achievable on such a farm. A business like this would create work for 10 permanent employees and 40 seasonal workers.

- Advertisement -

Your resolve that blacks must not own land is tantamount to the policies of MDC de Wet, minister of Bantu Affairs and Administration from 1958 to 1966, which ensured that blacks remained temporary sojourners in the land of their birth.
My passion for owning land and sustaining myself from it is influenced by my great-grandfather Isak Moatane Morule, who purchased the farm Vogelstruisknop 65 IP in 1906.

Even in those dark days, the colonial government equipped him with kaart en transport (surveyor’s diagram and title deed), which ensured that he could leave the land to his descendants. Unfortunately, these people were forcefully removed from their ancestral land by the apartheid government in 1978. We applaud the democratic government for having restored the land to its rightful owners in 2001.

Sadly, to date, all efforts to retrieve the title deed to that land have drawn a blank. It’s no surprise, then, that the farm Vogelstruisknop is lying fallow, like so many other lands restored to their original owners. This leads me to the conclusion that your department is hell-bent on denying blacks title to land. I shudder to the very depth of my being when I consider that your refusal to allow me the farm I have already been leasing with an option to purchase for 25 years will force me to remain forever under the control of your inefficient, corrupt and arrogant departmental officials.

Dream of independence
In 1981, after reading the press release issued by the then-Bophuthatswana government calling for people who wanted to be bona fide farmers to stay on their farms and occasionally visit town, and not the other way around, I immediately resigned from a senior position in the government.

My dream was to:

  • Unshackle myself from being a public servant and be self-employed.
  • Follow in the footsteps of my great-grandfather, who 104 years ago bought land and left a legacy for his children.
  • Become an agricultural practitioner who would create a modern, profitable and sustainable farming enterprise.
  • Encourage my children to imitate me and not add to the long queues of job seekers.
  • Urge my children to participate in the whole agricultural value chain, because blacks are not destined by God to remain in primary production only.
  • Become a taxpayer and not a pension receiver depending on government handouts.

It hurts me profoundly, Honourable Nkwinti, that today, thanks to your infinite wisdom and a stroke of your pen, my dreams are shattered. I confess that I have no hope you will be moved by my predicament, because you are sitting in comfortable offices in Pretoria, your salary is guaranteed, and your children are ensured a bright future.

I remain yours in sorrow, Gideon Morule. "

The views expressed in our weekly opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Farmer’s Weekly.