The plan by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, to release 700 000 hectares of “underutilised or vacant state land” for agricultural purposes could potentially prejudice emerging farmers after it emerged that some farms on the published list were already underactive agricultural production.
To prevent further panic and ensure that affected farmers get the requisite assurance to proceed with their preparations for the forthcoming agricultural season unhindered, the DA will write to Minister Didiza and ask that she:
- provides clarity on why productive farms have been listed;
- confirm whether existing farm occupants were consulted on the government’s intention to place the property on the list;
- explain the reasons for listing a farm whose occupant already possesses a lease agreement; and
- provide documented evidence of the reasons that informed the inclusion of each of the 896 farms on the list.
The DA is concerned that the criteria used by the DALRRD to identify ‘underutilised or vacant land’ may have been subjectively applied by Departmental officials resulting in the listing of productive farms.
One of the affected farmers is Mr. David Rakgase who, with the DA’s assistance, recently won the right to full ownership of his Nooitgedaccht farm in Limpopo after an 18 year battle with the government. Despite agreeing earlier this year to transfer full ownership of the farm to Mr. Rakgase, the sudden u-turn by the government to list his farm under the latest land reform programme is not only puzzling but now borders on vindictive victimisation of this elderly farmer.
Similarly, the Gwatyu community in the Eastern Cape recently discovered that their fight to have full ownership rights of their land has only resulted in its listing for possible land reform purposes on Didiza’s list. The Gwatyu case is particularly concerning because, despite being ignored for years by the government in repeated attempts to present their case, they now face the possibility of having their land parcelled out without consultation.
Deputy President, David Mabuza’s assurance in Parliament last week that no one will be forcibly evicted from the land is of little comfort to farmers who have spent years fighting for their right to land ownership. The urgent issue at hand is for Didiza to halt her ‘700 000 hectare’ programme until she has cleared the ongoing confusion on the targeting of occupied productive land.