The law will not allow South Africa to embark on a land redistribution process similar to that in Zimbabwe, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said on Thursday.
“In South Africa it’s not going to work. Even as we say the 50/50 [proposal]farmers say ‘we don’t agree’. They say ‘no, it’s wrong’. They send me smses. They put it as bluntly as that,” he told reporters in Pretoria.
“They say it’s unconstitutional, and they are right. That is the beauty of our country. Our country is a constitutional democracy.”
Nkwinti was at an Agri SA summit, where an alternative proposal to the government-mooted redistribution model was presented.
The 50/50 proposal involves giving 50% of farms to farmworkers and was widely criticised as ill-considered and unacceptable.
“When we published the 50/50 proposal, the very first call I got on a Sunday morning was from the secretary general of the ANC Gwede Mantashe. He said ‘I have bought myself a farm for R2m and now you want to nationalise R1m’,” said Nkwinti.
“He said he disagreed with me. On TV I also saw the treasurer general of the ANC saying the resolutions of the ANC do not speak to this thing [the 50/50 model].”
Nkwinti said he welcomed engagements with commercial farmer organisations like Agri SA, and would want to engage others.
He commended an Agri SA proposal, which he said had a social component, on how farm workers would benefit in land redistribution.
“The social component is where it matters most. How do we deal with the social conditions of the people working on the land?
“It couldn’t have been easy for Agri SA to reach this point,” said Nkwinti.
Agri SA president Johannes Moller said the organisation was willing to constantly negotiate with government on land redistribution.
“The Zimbabwe situation is not impossible, but it is improbable and highly unlikely. Once the Zimbabwe government started destroying commercial farmers, it hurt its value chain for commercial and emerging farmers,” he said.
“The farmers who suffered most in Zimbabwe are the emerging farmers. Their production dropped more than the production of the commercial sector. I think our government understands that concept.”
Agri SA has a technical task team to advise it on approaches with regards to the controversial land reform issue.
The Pretoria conference maintained that land restitution held a risk for sustainable agricultural production.
In June, Moller said Agri SA would not accept accusations that it was not prepared to support land reform.
He said land reform had suffered due to policy confusion, evident in government’s uncoordinated approach.
“It can hardly be expected to produce a nationally agreed-upon plan or plans,” Moller said at the time.
During the past five years there had been indications that the formulation of a meaningful plan was impossible.
Previous efforts at land reform had been fruitless. The restitution process had a record of failure.
The National Development Plan already indicated that 20% of land within a specific district could be acquired through contributions from farmers for reform purposes, Moller said.
In addition individual farmers were already participating in land reform efforts.
Moller said Agri SA had been part of talks on sustainable land reform that was economically viable.
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