Agri SA warns that both the ANC and the EFF would be putting South Africa at risk if they push through an amendment to section 25 of the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation.
The organisation’s executive director, Christo van der Rheede, has hit back after the ANC seemed to have now sided with the EFF in proposing that state custodianship be applicable to “certain land” within the context of expropriation.
However, Theo Venter, an independent political and policy specialist, tells Food For Mzansi that custodianship could be good if it benefits everyone in the country. This, as Afasa chairperson Neo Masithela says he is more interested in black farmers getting title deeds and land ownership.
The ANC and the EFF first made their presentations to parliament along with the DA on 31 May 2021.
Meanwhile, the ANC has shifted their stance on land custodianship to appease the EFF after President Cyril Ramaphosa distanced himself from them.
EFF leader Julius Malema says that he would “never vote” for an amendment that did not include their proposal. The DA, on the other hand, has consistently opposed the amendment and fiercely objected to state custodianship.
‘Scoring cheap political points’
Agri SA’s van der Rheede warns that “this half-baked idea has no Constitutional basis, and it is an attempt to place agricultural production and land under the control of the state”.
He predicted that allowing the state to have custodianship of the land would be disastrous for the country.
“The state’s track record in this regard speaks volumes of incompetence, mismanagement, large-scale corruption and land grabbing by the political elite.
“South Africans will have to voice their opposition against absurd ideas such as nationalisation of land or the placement of land under custodianship. The ANC and EFF are using this stunt to score cheap political points,” he said.
Van der Rheede adds that placing natural resources under custodianship requires the establishment of an enormous bureaucracy that will have to administer land, its allocation and use, and monitoring and evaluation.
Moreover, it leaves the door wide open for corruption and large-scale bribery to allocate land or farms to politicians, their families, friends, and wider patronage networks.
He stresses that “agricultural land and productive farms can under no circumstances be allocated to people who have no intention to farm productively”.
Van der Rheede furthermore tells Food For Mzansi that millions of acres of land, including once productive farms, lie unused today.
“The state has no or little control over those who farm on state farms today! In many instances, beneficiaries do honour the rental agreements and municipal and Eskom accounts are not paid.
“Instead of nationalising land or placing it under custodianship, the focus should shift to expanding ownership to millions of South Africans who own a house on communal, church, and municipal land,” advised van der Rheede.
Can custodianship be a good thing?
Meanwhile, Venter believes the concept of state custodianship of land is a very “difficult concept”.
He indicates that the impact of custodianship is determined by how it would benefit everyone in the country.
“We recently had a case where the Ingonyama Trust in KwaZulu-Natal was taken to court. The court ruled that the money they took from people living on the land must be repaid.
“Now, that’s a very good example of what custodianship of land is. The land is in your protection, but it doesn’t belong to you are only a guardian to the land. We have seen custodianship in terms of rivers, beaches things that belong to everybody and there is a very good example of where it can actually work because it is to the benefit of everybody.
“But the moment you start working with agricultural land, I think custodianship is probably not a workable solution to the current problems.
“Since the ANC and the EFF cannot get to see each other on this issue because they need two thirds of the majority in parliament to pass the law, in my view, what we are seeing is a cosmetic change of the constitution that if it goes through will be extremely difficult to manage,” he said.
Title deeds for economic emancipation
Masithela says Afasa’s position on the matter is that black farmers, and black people, should have their own title deeds.
“Having our own title deeds enables us to have our own cash liquidity and ownership. Farmers in the previous dispensation were allowed to have title deeds and they used those title deeds as part of the assets for their farming activity and businesses.
“And not only that, we think it will enable most of the black farmers and black people in general to have access to one of the main assets that they don’t have, the land.”