A much-anticipated nationwide protest by developing farmers in Mzansi has been called off at the last minute. Marches had been planned to the offices of the national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development in Pretoria, as well as provincial department offices in eight of the country’s nine provinces.
Malapane Thamaga, organiser on behalf of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa), tells Food For Mzansi that the protest, which was supposed to take place today (Wednesday, 20 April), was called off on Tuesday due to logistical reasons and other obstacles. It will be convened again at a later date, yet to be announced.
When the march takes place, the organisers will hand over the grievances of black farmers from different farmer organisations in the country to the national agri department.
‘Shameful and non-existing land reform’
While listing their grievances in anticipation of the protest, the farmers have labelled the country’s land reform policies as shameful and non-existing.
“It is a shame that land ownership in South Africa continues to be skewed with minority white farmers owning a majority of land, whereas the majority of native black farmers are deprived of land ownership in their native land.
“White people own about 72% of the land while black people own less than 10% of land, 28 years into democracy,” reads the memorandum which was supposed to be delivered.
‘Support constantly delayed’
Unlike in other sectors, the farmers say, support to the agricultural sector is constantly delayed.
As a weather-dependent sector that is directly linked to seasonal changes, tangible support is urgent when the time is right. A case in point is the good rains that could have ensured a bumper grain crop this season, in most of Mzansi’s provinces.
“However, by February 2022 farmers were yet to receive the needed support for the planting season. This is a serious concern, especially since it is not the first time that farmers experienced this challenge.
“We hereby call for the [department] to make it mandatory that applications for planting season be concluded by May of each year so that, by July already, the service provider would be appointed and farmers are clear on when they can expect the needed farmer support, for what purpose and [in what] quantity.”
‘Promised aid never delivered’
The farmers further allege that there is a trend among officials who request farmers to complete requisition forms for support such as silos, tractors and storage facilities but never deliver when the applications are approved. The excuse is often that the department is waiting for the relevant service provider, however, years can go by without fulfilment of the approved orders.
“We therefore demand to know what really happens to this money spent on items that are never delivered? Furthermore, we demand that [the department] assist farmers according to their needs, not according to their state of available assistance.
“For instance, if a farmer is in need of a borehole, [the department] should provide that assistance rather than telling farmers that in the current financial year [it] is supplying security fences, and so on,” reads the memorandum.
Procurement from black farmers
The farmers ask the department to create favourable conditions for them to access local markets, but more specifically to be able to trade with government.
“Government continues to be the biggest procurer of agricultural produce for school feeding, prisons, hospitals, the South African National Defence Force, Sassa, etc. Government procures food and food-oriented services to the value of R10 billion annually.
“Yet black farmers are not benefitting from these markets. We therefore call for a government-driven single market channel – exclusively to empower black farmers – whereby farmers are given quotas to produce specific quantities for this exclusive market at a subsidised price.”
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