Agri SA has called on agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza to investigate the “hijacking of farms for personal gain” following her admission that a property management overhaul was needed.
Yesterday, during her budget speech vote, Didiza referred to three farmers who took government to task over irregulations with their respective leases of state-owned land.
David Rakgase from Limpopo, Ivan Cloete from the Western Cape and Vuyani Zigana from KwaZulu-Natal were all threatened with eviction by government officials.
Didiza said, “The management of farmland leases has caused concern from farmers, financial institutions, would-be investors and members of this very house.
“The Rakgase, Cloete and Zigana cases, though resolved, have amplified the need for a complete overhaul of our system of property management as a department.”
Clamp down on corruption
While Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA, acknowledged this need, he added that “everything must be done to root out corruption and incompetent staff. The lack of accountability and consequence management must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
Meanwhile Didiza also addressed unease over the pending land claim of the Rust de Winter farms in Limpopo. She vowed that government would ensure that farmers with valid leases can continue with their farming operations.
“The department will look for alternative land where they will be allocated. The deeds registry will also ensure that farm leases that are earmarked for farmers are registered in order to create certainty from the financial institutions and interested investors,” she said.
This move has been welcomed by Agri SA with Van der Rheede remarking that it would “create certainty for financial institutions and interested investors.”
However, Agri SA called on the minister to support the commercial agricultural sector. This, after she placed great emphasis on the role that her department plays in terms of supporting new farmers.
Appreciate commercial agriculture
“The growth in the commercial sector must not be taken for granted and should not be regarded as an indicator that everything is good and well in this sector.
“Agriculture is a high-risk business and commercial agriculture, especially, is exposed to the volatility of global markets and the destructive impact of many other variables.
“In this regard, we appeal to the minister to engage continuously with the commercial sector in an effort to address the challenges that commercial farmers also face,” said Van der Rheede.
Meanwhile Didiza has prioritised the land crisis in her mid-term budget. To mitigate the crisis of land claim backlogs, the minister said she had appointed Professor Richard Levin as special master for labour tenants in the land claims court.
She said, “The special master working with the department has tabled the execution plan in the land claims court on how in the five years these claims will be resolved.
“We indicated our commitment to accelerating the resolution on old order claims. In the past financial year, we have settled 240 claims, which covered both urban and rural claims.”