‘Secret plan’ was just an internal draft document

The Farmer’s Weekly articles (October 13) titled “Officials hatch secret land plan” are mischievous, distorted, uninformed and represent the worst side of a free and robust media in a democracy!

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The Farmer’s Weekly articles (October 13) titled “Officials hatch secret land plan” are mischievous, distorted, uninformed and represent the worst side of a free and robust media in a democracy!

Firstly, your deluded articles are based on a leaked but outdated document version (which was not even discussed at the said workshops) and if your journalists had done their work properly they would have been properly guided!
The document referred to in the articles was a draft discussion document for use by the department in developing the government position on the use of various constitutional and legal instruments to accelerate land delivery in order to meet the 2014 target of redistributing 30% of white commercial agricultural land.
The department had invited relevant departments, individuals and organisations we considered experts on these issues to interrogate the draft discussion document and assist the department to refine its positions.

As a publication specialising on agriculture and land issues, we expected your journalist, Chris Louw, to know that the need for the review of the willing buyer, willing seller principle was vocally raised at the July 2005 Land Summit, subsequent to which the President also, in his State of the Nation address in February 2006, instructed the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs to review the said principle in the current year. Furthermore, our plans to review the willing buyer, willing seller principle have been incorporated into the department’s ­strategic plan – a public document which has been tabled to the Portfolio Committee.
We therefore reject strongly with the utmost contempt your statement ­“officials are hatching a secret plan” .

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Your journalist had the audacity to publish untruths without following due journalistic ethics and procedures and indulge in a campaign of disinformation in order to cause alarm and despondency. The draft internal discussion document in question has absolutely no status. It represents work in progress towards giving effect to the Land Summit recommendations, the Presidential directive and departmental strategic plans.

“The workshop where policy decisions were being hammered out by officials…”, your writer declares. Officials do not make policy – they give effect to policy directives of policy makers and they also implement the policies emanating from parliament. The workshop cannot make “policy decisions” – the purpose of the workshop was to give content to the Land Summit recommendations with respect to various land acquisition instruments that were discussed at the summit.

Furthermore, your publication states that “The document – which is being workshopped without the participation of major agricultural unions such as Agri SA, Nafu and TAU SA…” The director general has made it abundantly clear that the said organisations as participants in the Land Summit are part and parcel of the National Steering Committee (NSC) charged with the responsibility of taking forward the Land Summit recommendations. Their consultation is already taking place through the NSC.

Your publication refers to the “Zimbabwe Model” whereas our draft discussion document does not refer anywhere to a “Zimbabwe model” but to Zimbabwe, Namibia and Brazil in relation to international experience on willing buyer, willing seller. Yet references to Namibia and Brazil are completely ignored. Was this a cheap popularity-seeking stunt on the part of your journalist, Chris Louw?
Notwithstanding the outrageous reference to the “Zimbabwe Model”, there is no legislation barring South Africa learning from other countries including Zimbabwe.
It is clear that the author of the articles has a particular hidden agenda. Hence his selective approach to the analysis of the document in question. The draft internal discussion document presents a menu of policy instruments and does not rank these instruments in any order of importance. To single out one particular instrument at the expense of others is to distort reality and misinform the public.

The writer of the article ­displays extreme ignorance of not only the constitution but also its applicability to land reform. For example, he regards the expropriation of land in terms of the constitution being limited to restitution. This is a fallacy. The expropriation of land as a means of getting land from the white farmers into the public domain for redistribution purposes affects all the three land reform programmes, namely land redistribution, land tenure reform and land restitution. It is no accident that each of these land reform programmes have legislation with expropriation provision.

The constitution regards land reform to be a matter of “public interest” and “the public interest includes the nation’s commitment to land reform and to reforms to bring about equitable access to all South Africa’s natural resources”. Section 25(4) of the constitution makes provision for expropriation of land for land and agrarian reform purposes. There is nothing untoward about using expropriation to achieve the purpose contemplated in the constitution. The ­expropriation measure is one of the many instruments available to the state to accelerate land delivery. Again, the writer of the articles in Farmer’s Weekly seeks to wantonly convey an ­alarmist message in order to create uncertainty in the economy.

The draft internal discussion document makes it clear that the constitution stipulates how compensation to affected parties is to be factored into the expropriation process.
Last but not least, the writer of the said articles states: “President Thabo Mbeki’s government is accused by the Land Affairs officials who drew up the document of lacking the political will to expropriate farmers.” This is another ­glaring example of interpreting a clear statement out of context.

The document justifies why it has been in the interest of policy-makers not to expropriate farm land. The justification of such in the draft document is completely ignored for reasons best known to the writer of the article.
The key words from the draft discussion document are as ­follows: “justifiably and judiciously”. Is this an attack on the president? The writer of the said articles thinks it is. We beg to differ.

The articles in Farmer’s Weekly are replete with gross ­distortions and deliberate fabrications. One suspects there is a political agenda they seek to feed, and it is not in the interest of the country.
One could go on ­analysing the articles in Farmer’s Weekly. It is not worth any effort to do so, because they lack substance and are written out of context in order to sow the seeds of disorder in our beloved country.

Eddie Mohoebi,

HEAD OF COMMUNICATIONS

DEPARTMENT OF LAND AFFAIRS

Farmer’s Weekly responds: We stand by our published article, but respect the right of the ­Department of Land Affairs to air its views. We invite ­readers to view the document at www.farmersweekly.co.za and judge for themselves whether Farmer’s Weekly misrepresented the facts.

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