Letters – 24 November 2006

Sanity urgently required over the inevitable process of land restitution
We have let the Olifants River down – again
Who controls the rural economy?

<h3> </h3> <h3>Sanity urgently required over the inevitable process of land restitution</h3> <br /> It saddens me to read and hear so much aggression, ­conflict and negativity about land reform, an issue which is vital to the stability and future of this beloved land of ours. This matter is being politicised way beyond reality, and like a cancer is feeding off the conflict and beginning to spiral out of control.I am sure that all citizens have come to terms with the fact that the state’s plans for restitution will take place, like it or not. All that should therefore remain is the implementation of policy.<br /> This requires a ­structured plan, cooperation with all stakeholders and ­transparency. Simply outlined:<br /> The establishment of a database of all lodged claims.An assessment of current land ownership in the country, by province and region.An assessment of land already placed on the open market.An open process for claims validation.The notification of ­land­owners who may be affected, and open discussion.A willingness to ­consider alternatives.The decision.<br /> The valuation and transfer.<br /> Nothing is simple, but good management and a desire to achieve the goal will see the process through.<br /> Can I help? I am sure there will be many other willing hands.<br /> <span style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Keith Pengelley</span><span style="font-weight: bold;">, VIA E-MAIL</span><br /> <br /> <h3>We have let the Olifants River down – again</h3> A revised RoD (Record of Decision) has been issued by the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, which grants the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry permission to build the De Hoop Dam in the Steelpoort River, a tributary of the Olifants River.<br /> Large platinum mining expansion is planned for the area to be serviced by the dam. You need to crush and slurry eight to 12 tons of rock to extract a single ounce of platinum, an extremely water- and energy-intensive process.<br /> So soon there will be a mighty dam wall where there used to be a humble river. Soon, more species of animals and plants perhaps unknown will lose the fight against development at more than a river’s cost.<br /> If future generations have the capacity, they will break down these barriers, realising that we need the river for all its people and other living and non-living components.<br /> The full RoD is available from: <a href="http://www.environment.gov.za/Docs/DocumentHomepage.aspx?">www.environment.gov.za/Docs/DocumentHomepage.aspx?type=D&id=2137</a>.<br /> Philip Owen,<br /> <span style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">SA COORDINATOR</span><span style="font-weight: bold;">, GEASPHERE</span><br /> <br /> <h3>Who controls the rural economy?</h3> It was nice to read about my community project in Farmer’s Weekly (25 August) that is, the development in the Besters farm community in Ladysmith, KZN.But I wasn’t impressed with the reporting on that project. Most of what was reported there is either to good to be true or cooked.It is sad that those developed white farmers under the Besters Farmers’ Association claim to help land reform beneficiaries. Though the concept is noble, that is, to merge white developed farmers with new emerging farmers (black, and with little or no farming experience), there is exploitation of the new farmers by those developed and white.For instance, in the very same project, more than 15% of the first R4 million went to one of the developed white farmers. He was given the tender to dig holes for the community’s water without advertising for it. Another one got to make a fire-cart and some other tools in the same way and he is also one of the mentors. I estimate about 50% of the grant money of the project have gone to these farmers one way or another. The community is yet to see the benefit of these developments as little has been done on the unemployment level.<br /> And the so-called community leader is just fronting! It’s a sad story with great potential as government is pro-poor and this community is poor. ­Something needs to change here and fast. There is good, but bad can chew out all the good.<br /> <span style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Bantu Hlatshwayo,</span><br style="font-weight: bold;" /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">VIA E-MAIL<br /> <br /> </span>Mazweli Mbhele, ­chair­person of the Besters Section 21 ­Company replies: the letter by Bantu Hlatshwayo was ­discussed at a community meeting of the 14 Communal Property ­Associations (CPAs). We believe the ­following should be noted:<br /> 1. We procure all of our ­equipment and services ourselves and have formed a procurement committee within the Section 21 Company which was formed to administer our affairs. The Department of Land Affairs is also represented on this committee. This we needed to do to comply with the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act. We thank the Department of Land Affairs for placing their trust in us to manage our own finances.<br /> 2. The boreholes were placed on tender and we received four quotes from commercial ­companies who drill professionally. None of the commercial farmers have drilling rigs to do this work.<br /> 3. For the fire-carts, we received three quotations and selected one of the mentors as he was considerably cheaper, the specifications were better and he employed four community members to do the construction. They are presently forming a company together due to the success of this initial venture.<br /> 4. Cattle were purchased from commercial farmers and these were all purchased by another committee, elected by all of the CPAs and comprising community members who were judged to be the best stockmen in the district. Thirty-seven percent of the cattle purchased were sourced from local farmers.<br /> 5. We are presently doing our own fencing, road ­construction and general farm ­management. We are also ­looking at becoming an agent for a ­tractor company, mixing our own lick and ­starting our own feedlot.<br /> 6. All CPA chairpersons are elected according to their ­constitutions and these ­chairpersons then elect the ­chairperson of the Section 21 Company. These elections are held annually. <br /> 7. All finances are known to each CPA, and a series of workshops were held during November to confirm our general financial position. We also hold regular meetings to discuss problems and take joint decisions. For example, after a visit by senior World Bank staff we reviewed our position on ­equipment ownership, housing processes and the influence of HIV/Aids.