Petty political games that will lead to jobs losses and a slowdown in agricultural production in South Africa. This is the reaction of farmers in Mzansi to the ANC’s failed attempt to amend the Constitution as it relates to land expropriation without compensation.
The failure was widely anticipated in the agricultural sector prior to the session in which the National Assembly voted against amending the Constitution. The amendment to Section 25 would expressly allow for expropriation without compensation. In the end, 204 MPs voted in favour of the bill and 145 against, with no abstentions. A total of 267 votes is required for a two-thirds majority, leaving the governing party short by 63 votes.
With a new Expropriation Bill still in the legislative pipeline the land reform debate is far from over. However, farmers in Mzansi seem to predominantly be happy that the proposed change to the constitution was rejected.
Food For Mzansi asked farmers in various parts of the country for their views on the matter. This is what they had to say:
Nick Serfontein, chairperson of the Sernick Group
“I never expected it to go through. These people are playing petty political games,” said Free State farmer, Nick Serfontein.
Serfontein was a member of Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisory panel on land reform in agriculture who submitted a report with alternative recommendations in 2019.
He says he is delighted the motion failed because it upsets people, in particular farmers.
“I have always maintained that expropriation without compensation [will] happen, but that it will never happen to productive land.
“This was just a storm in a teacup. But it is also a wake-up call for commercial farmers to get involved in land reform. Successful land reform is not about dishing out the land; it is about establishing successful black farmers. South Africa will fail if it does not happen,” Serfontein said.
Mashudu Thobakgale, mixed farmer in Limpopo
Meanwhile for Mashudu Thobakgale as a black farmer in Limpopo the most important thing is to have title deeds for communal land. He runs his mixed farming operation on this kind of land.
Thobakgale said he is not sure why the government has not synchronized the two land ownership forms.
“It’s a disadvantage for me as I cannot use communal land as collateral, regardless of the substantial investment I have made in it.
“Furthermore, it’s good to own communal land as it is closer to the community as workers can walk to work and they don’t have to be based on the farm fulltime,” he pointed out.
Thobakgale also said that he does not subscribe to state ownership as per the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) policy. The party wants the land to be expropriated without compensation and put into the custody of the state.
“People must own the land, not the government to distribute as they see fit,” Thobakgale says.
“Another problem I have is that how can one person own 3000 hectares of land alone, it cannot be right,” he points out.
He believes that the land reform process should not be discriminatory. “I think they need to take farms from blacks [as well] where the allocation is over 1000 hectares,” he said. Anything more than that should require a special permit and be subject to a requirement of employing more than 500 workers.
Annalea Van Niekerk, cattle breeder in the Free State
It’s a scary [to think] that your farm will be taken away without compensation,” said Free State livestock farmer, Annalea Van Niekerk.
In sharing her views on the matter, Van Niekerk described the land exportation bill as a “very dangerous” topic in the country.
“For me as a farmer, [the defeat of the amendment] was good news, because we as farmers are afraid that we can lose our farms if the bill is put in place.
“However, there’s so much land that is currently used which is in the hands of the government. If that land can be given to people who want farms that also might be one of the solutions to this land debate,” Van Niekerk said.
Taetso Tsebogo, vegetable farmer in Mpumalanga
According to Taetso Tsebogo it is wrong for the government to expropriate land from owners without compensating them.
“Farmers who own land have worked hard to maintain their land and to also provide work to people, expropriating their land leads to loss of jobs for their employees as well as their production slows down,” Tsebogo said.
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