Why the ANC wants land reform to fail - Annette Steyn

DA MP says this would enable govt at some point to evoke the limitation of rights under section 36 of the Constitution

Speech by DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Annette Steyn MP, Shadow Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, during the budget vote debate on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Parliament, Cape Town, May 13 2015

 “Minister Zokwana will leave a destructive legacy”

Honourable Chairperson,

The ANC’s failure to empower millions of South Africans through its land reform processes has put this country at a cross roads. The announcements made by Minister Nkwinti have shocked the agricultural sector in a period where they are still negotiating in good faith with the Minister on best practises for win-win solutions on the land question.

Minister Nkwinti announced last Friday that the ceilings, for both natural and juristic persons will be as follows:

The ceiling for a viable commercial small scale farm should be 1 000ha;

The ceiling for a medium scale viable commercial farm should be 2 500ha; and

The ceiling for a large scale viable commercial farm should be 5 000ha.

The DA is strongly opposed to any cap on agricultural land ownership as it will cap investment and cap job creation. Effectively, when farms grow beyond the ANC’s proposed cap, government will expropriate them. This will preclude investment across the sector, including in black-owned agri-businesses that have grown beyond a certain point.

This, along with other proposals such as 50/50 ownership, has created uncertainty within the sector which could have a detrimental effect on food security, jobs and the economy as a whole.

Chairperson, it is becoming abundantly clear that the ANC government wants land reform to fail. If the ANC was serious about land reform, it would have ensured that a proper budget was made available for this very important program. It is of utmost importance that land reform succeeds in order to lift thousands of South Africans out of poverty.

So, why would the ANC government want land reform to fail? This would enable them at some point to evoke the limitation of rights under section 36 of the Constitution and override the protections guaranteed to individual property owners in terms of section 25 of the Constitution. This will allow the state to control all land, whether in the form of ownership or as a custodian.

This is becoming evident in the draft preservation and development of Agricultural Land Framework Bill in which it states in section 3 that, as the custodian of the nation’s agricultural land, the Department may approve, reject, control, administer and manage any rezoning or subdivision of agricultural land. This bill further states that the Minister could expropriate land which has not been optimally used over a certain period of time at a lower price than would be paid for similar land in the same geographical area.

The SACP is clearly taking over from within – you still call yourselves the ANC but we are not fooled! We are witnessing a persistent trend towards an authoritarian approach in which the state controls and owns the land. This cannot be accepted in our young constitutional democracy.

One of the clearest indicators of this agenda to fail the land reform program is the cut in the budget of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Budget reductions over the medium term amount to:

R158 million in 2015/16,

R210 million in 2016/17 and

R200 million in 2017/18.

These reductions are primarily the result of persistent underspending in previous years.

These budget cuts would have massive implications on the sector as a whole. Some of the most concerning reductions are as follows:

The Agricultural Research Council will drop from R1,3 billion in 2014/15 to R1 billion in 2015/16.

The Trade promotion and Market Access programme will be reduced from R298 253 000 in 2014/15 to R238 162 000 in 2015/16.

The Cooperatives and Rural Enterprise Development sub-programme is going from R117 114 000 in 2015/16 to R68 240 000 in 2015/16.

The Agro-processing and marketing sub-programme will also see its budget reduced, as will the Extension Support Services sub-programme.

All these budget cuts occur while the department aims to increase the number of hectares of land under productive use to 375 000 hectares by 2017/18 under its Fetsa Tlala project. This, however, is way below the target initially set by the department when it launched this project in 2013, where is set a target goal of 1 million hectares of land under production in the next 5 years.

The number of smallholder farmers supported per year will also be dramatically decreased from 7000 in 2014/15 to 3 900 in 2015/16.

The government is clearly failing people who live and work the land in communal areas.

The ANC government has left new emerging farmers to fend for themselves without proper title over the land, capital investment, skills, or access to markets. We need to support emerging farmers to enable them to run successful businesses. There needs to be substantial increases in support to emerging farmers as they move through the various stages of business development.

Chairperson, Minister Zokwana must stop telling farmers to calm down, that this is all a negotiating tactic. Why are you playing cat and mouse with the farmers? Next week we will probably see a new populist proposal being announced. Minister, do you not know the damage this is causing to this sector?

The Minister must inform us here today what his plans are. You are supposed to be the protector of food security and the agricultural sector at large yet you remain silent while steps are being taken to destroy it.

This will be your legacy! The time to act is now otherwise you will be the Minister who oversaw the enactment and implementation of legislation that systematically destroyed the agricultural sector, causing national food insecurity, major job losses and the collapse of rural economies. You cannot sit quiet while Minister Nkwinti runs amok.

South Africa deserves better.

A vibrant, inclusive rural economy can contribute to economic growth, food security, create jobs and help to alleviate poverty in South Africa. It speaks to the essence of the DA’s vision of an Open Opportunity Society for all and will remain a key priority for all current and future DA governments.

Issued by the DA, May 13 2015