South African agricultural industry association Agri SA has welcomed the announcement by Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza that over 500 000 ha of State land will be made available for agricultural purposes.
Agri SA Centre of Excellence for Land chairperson Willem de Chavonnes Vrugt, however, cautions against corruption and said “it is important when selecting beneficiaries to ensure that land is used [productively] for farming purposes”.
He adds that the private sector and organised agriculture can play a valuable role in the selection of beneficiaries and support for such beneficiaries and that Agri SA would like to see district land committees making use of such expertise.
Agri SA also welcomes the option to buy that will be afforded to beneficiaries. However, the organisation lamented that the department “has a poor record” when it comes to managing leases.
The organisation also took note of the Minister’s intention to conclude written lease agreements with beneficiaries within 30 days, noting that, in the past, beneficiaries had often not received written agreements.
Agri SA is in favour of awarding full title to beneficiaries.
The undertaking that the land would be managed productively for farming purposes, is also positive, says De Chavonnes Vrugt, who reiterates that agricultural land is a “scarce resource” and that it is crucial that available land be used productively in a sustainable manner.
The organisation also welcomed the proposed inquiry into already-occupied State land.
Didiza said on October 1 that a land inquiry process would be ongoing on State land that is already occupied without formal approval from the government. Such inquiry will assess farms that have been acquired through the Proactive Land Acquisition Programme and will investigate and determine how individuals and communities currently occupying the land, got access to it.
The inquiry will also look at how the land is currently being used and whether such use is in accordance with the agricultural practices for the area.
Where such land has been used for settlement, Didiza said assessments would be done, together with the departments of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation and Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.
Based on the outcome of the assessments and recommendations, a decision will be taken on the future of such occupations.