Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza says her department, on October 1, advertised 529 000 ha of land, amounting to 894 farms across South Africa for release on October 15.
“The advert was to run for a month ending November 15,” she says. This forms part of the State land that has been released as part of the 700 000 ha announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address in February.
Didiza says the newly advertised land comprises State-owned land that is currently occupied by individuals and communities without lease agreements.
“These are communities that applied for the 30-year lease and their applications were never finalised and those who have never applied for State land but are interested in performing agricultural activities.”
The land to be released is that which government earmarked for the consolidation of homelands and was previously held by the South African Development Trust.
She says that, for some of this land, farmers were allocated hectares of land in different sizes depending on the agricultural viability of the land.
“Some of these lands, like the Makhathini Flats, were managed by Umjindi Management Company. Some lands were then used by communities for grazing, though no formal consolidation had been done.”
As such, after 1994, Didiza says an attempt was made to transfer some of these farmlands to farmers.
“Unfortunately, this process was not concluded. To address the land rights of these various communities, a land rights enquiry is critical.”
In this regard, she says the advertisement of properties, including those on which communities live, is to ensure that there is transparency and that the government is able to address the legal issues that are necessary to confirm the rights from a process that was left hanging.
Didiza says a land enquiry process is being undertaken to ascertain the status of such occupation and how such lands were given to these communities or individuals.
“This process will ensure that proper procedure for formalisation and regularisation is undertaken. This is a way of enabling the State to have a record of which farm is occupied by whom and what activities are being undertaken on that particular State-owned land.”
She adds that the process will continue until such time that all State-owned land has been recorded and accounted for.
Following the newly released land and the advertising thereof, she says her department had received 5 838 online applications, including from cooperatives/companies and individuals. A number of physical applications have also been received and will be consolidated after the closing date.
Meanwhile, as part of the economic recovery plan tabled by Ramaphosa, Didiza says agriculture is one of those sectors of the economy that is poised to contribute positively to job creation, food security and economic growth.
“To achieve improved economic growth as seen in the first and second quarter, we need to ensure that an enabling environment is created for the sector to succeed. Policy and regulatory environment will require certainty to eliminate negative perception from would-be investors in this sector.”
Agricultural infrastructure, particularly for irrigation, remains critical in particular in new areas that offer new opportunities for inclusive growth, she says.