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Commercial farmers question Mantashe on land reform

Miranda Raaff

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe faced farmers' questions about land reform, food security, labour unrest and agricultural policy inconsistencies.

Farmers were concerned about labour expectations, food price inflation and significant labour unrest, among other things. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Commercial farmers raised questions and concerns about land reform and the issues surrounding such reform with ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe at a discussion at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

“We are concerned about ongoing policy inconsistency by government, marked by frequently changing positions and perspectives,” they said in a joint statement handed to Mantashe at the dialogue about land reform and food security.

“We are concerned about labour expectations, food price inflation and significant labour unrest,” the farmers said.

Commercial farmers were also worried about declining investor confidence and job losses in the agricultural sector. They wanted government to bring policy synergy and policy coherence to the agricultural sector.

“Government must be responsible for land acquisitions for the growth of farming operations and the consequent beneficiation of farm workers ... If government acquires farms, we will provide economic custodianship until they become viable agri-businesses.”

Commercial farmers wanted government to introduce a wage subsidy in the sector and assistance in building houses and agri-villages for farm workers. 

Water issues
They also wanted government to plan allocations of water before allocating land, particularly for labour-intensive farming. Government should critically review water management as a “strategic resource” and provide more storage dams and more irrigation schemes to grow the industry, they said.

Mantashe responded by saying farms would not be taken from owners without compensation. “If your land is sold it will be for compensation,” he said. “Your farms will not be grabbed without compensation.”

He said the fears of commercial farmers and the aspirations of emerging farmers needed to be dealt with and balanced.

“All South Africans must have access to land. What the ANC will not do is out of fear, do nothing. It’s about overcoming fear.”

He said government was subsidising development and not inefficiency, as stated by one farmer at the event.

Mantashe said farmers developed at different paces by taking different routes.

“Small is a stage in development. We must not be angry with being small. You will grow,” he said.

Emerging farmers
The “mentorship” of emerging farmers by commercial farmers was to help others and themselves.

“We co-exist, black and white, we are neighbours. It is about talking with neighbouring farmers,” Mantashe said.

“In the process you get value, something that will take you four years to learn in college.”

The mentorship must not be for money, he said. “It’s about helping each other.”

He said agriculture had to create wealth.

Quoting former president Nelson Mandela, Mantashe said no one was born hating each other.

“Everybody is taught to hate. Our duty is to teach you to love each other, appreciate each other. Everyone wants to succeed,” said Mantashe. “Then your project will be a project of love, it’s as simple as that.” – Sapa

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