The minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Ms Thoko Didiza recently gave an update on her department’s progress on the Release of the Agricultural State Land Allocation. Didiza said to date, the department has received 5838 online applications from cooperatives, companies and individuals and that a number of physical applications have been received and they will be consolidated after the closing date.
According to Didiza, they have met a number of farm dwellers, farmers and communities since the land enquiry started. She also spoke on allegations made about government officials writing letters of evictions to people living on State land and on officials who demand bribes amounting to hundreds of thousands of Rands in order to grant access to land.
Didiza condemned these actions and said that they are unacceptable and unlawful. She urged members of the public to report such acts to the office of the Acting Director-General or to report them to their nearest police stations.
“It is important to emphasise that the main purpose of this process is not to destabilise farmers who have been farming and producing in farms in the past, but to put in place a State land administration and management system that ensure security of land tenure, stability and provide an opportunity for sustainable food security and economic growth.” Said the minister.
Didiza urged all South Africans to seize the opportunity and submit their applications online or at provincial and district offices in the seven provinces before the closing date of 15 November 2020. The allocation is taking place in the following provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and North West. She said the department will continue to communicate on the screening, assessment and approval process that will follow the finalisation of the process.
Minister Didiza said the land which is set to be distributed is the land which the previous government had earmarked for the consolidation of homelands and was later held by the South African Development Trust.
She said in some of these lands, farmers were allocated hectares of land in different sizes depending on the agricultural viability of the land. Others, like the Makhathini Flats, were managed by Umjindi Management Company. She also explained that some of them were later used by communities for grazing, though no formal consolidation had been done.
“After 1994, 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. The advertisement of properties including those that have communities 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.” Said Didiza.
The minister added that land forms are an important economic base for agricultural development, industrialisation and human settlement, therefore land reform plays a critical role in enabling those who have been historically disadvantaged to have an asset that can give them a foothold in economic participation. She said the process of land reform will also ensure social cohesion and inclusion amongst the society.
According to the minister, the government has committed itself in supporting the new entrants into the agricultural economy. She said the government is also encouraged by the expression of support from a number of organisations that are willing to partner with it to help those who have received land from government either through restitution of land rights or land redistribution succeed.
“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 said.