/ 15 December 2009

Land Bank denies new moratorium

The Land Bank on Tuesday denied it has placed a new moratorium on collecting debt arrears from emerging farmers after Solidarity trade union accused it of unfairly targeting only defaulting white farmers.

”We are collecting from emerging farmers,” Land Bank spokesperson Musa Mchunu said.

He referred to a statement by Land Bank CEO Phakamani Hadebe that before the moratorium was lifted in July, the bank was collecting about R40-million a month from emerging farmers.

Hadebe said that after the moratorium, which dated from 2002, was lifted, monthly collections increased to about R140-million.

Mchunu said there were discussions under way between the bank, the departments of agriculture and rural development and private business to ”come up with a blueprint to assist emerging farmers so that they can become commercial farmers”.

It was the bank’s idea to rope in the private sector to give a lifeline to emerging farmers, he said, stressing that talks were ongoing and no policy had been finalised.

Solidarity claimed that ”a type of moratorium has again been placed on the collection of debt in arrears from emerging farmers” shortly after the bank resumed collecting from disadvantaged farmers.

The union’s deputy secretary general Dirk Hermann warned that a selective approach ”unfairly based on race” would jeopardise efforts to turn around the beleaguered bank.

”If the moratorium were to be implemented in the same manner, the struggling Land Bank would lose money it desperately needs.”

Mchunu said: ”I’m not aware of such an approach.” — Sapa