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DA wants black farmers to own the land they till

Business Day / 10 OCTOBER 2017 - 05:45 / BEKEZELA PHAKATHI

Mmusi Maimane says emerging black farmers are supposed to be able to buy the land they currently lease from the state, but that this has not happened

Qualifying black farmers must have an ownership stake in the land they farm, ensuring economic empowerment and true freedom, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said on Monday.

Without ownership, said Maimane, farmers cannot raise capital, remove illegal land invaders and expand production. The government has been under pressure to boost the number of black farmers who actually own the land, amid growing frustration with the state’s tardy land reform programme.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies has previously said more than 70% of commercial farms in SA are owned by white farmers. There are about 39,000 white commercial farmers in the country, and 5,300 black farmers, according to the African Farmers Association of SA.

In many instances, black farmers struggle to get title, making it difficult for them to access finance and raise capital.

Maimane, who met farmers in Limpopo on Monday, said through the Land Redistribution for Local Development programme, emerging black farmers are supposed to be able to buy the land they currently lease from the state. However, this has not happened.

According to Maimane, many farmers are still paying a monthly lease fee to the government — with no prospect of owning their land — despite having farmed the land for many years.

Maimane said David Rakgase a farmer at a Nooitgedacht farm who has been farming for 26 years, had been leasing the farm from the government since April 1991.

In 1999, Rakgase applied and became a beneficiary of the government’s Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development programme. In 2002, Rakgase was asked whether he would like to exercise his option to purchase the farm. He immediately accepted and confirmed his intention to purchase — which the government approved.

Later, Rakgase received a letter from the Limpopo provincial government confirming that he was the new owner.

However, Maimane said the government now says Rakgase no longer has an option to become the owner of the land, as he falls under a new government programme — the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy.

"They deny that the original option to purchase was ever exercised. At 77-years old, Mr Rakgase is still not the owner of this farm we stand on today. For the past two decades, Mr Rakgase has been messed around and abused, and deprived of owning the land he farms despite a clear contractual agreement, which he exercised," Maimane said.

"The ANC government has all but abandoned the state-assisted land purchase and transfer of title to beneficiaries approach. Rather, since 2011, the state has altered the willing-buyer-willing-seller approach, to the detriment of black farmers. The state has now become the purchaser of land, acquiring land for redistribution to beneficiaries without transfer of title. State-owned land that is leased out has replaced the original private ownership mode," the DA leader said.

Maimane said the DA’s legal team had written to the State Attorney’s Office asking for an explanation as to why the land had not been transferred to Rakgase.

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform spokesperson Linda Page said : "The department has since 2013 signed leases with farmers with the option to purchase. Once the lessees reach the stage of exercising such option, they shall be entitled to buy the land in accordance with their lease agreements."


LINK - https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/2017-10-10-da-wants-black-farmers-to-own-the-land-they-till/

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