Land-reform beneficiaries owed R3,4bn by govt

The government has failed to pay R3,4-billion in post-settlement grants to beneficiaries of land reform with potentially damning consequences, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said on Monday.

Recipients in 389 cases had not received grants, the minister said in reply to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance.

He warned that this could lead to a change of land use on farms, a decline in crop production, an inability to maintain infrastructure, a lack of skills transfer to beneficiaries, community conflicts and even farm invasions.

“Farm invasions could take place where beneficiaries cannot occupy farms as result of delays,” he said.

Nkwinti said Mpumalanga was the province most affected by the failure to pay grants, with 173 reform projects still owed a total of R2,6-billion.

Next came the Eastern Cape, where 49 projects were awaiting R395-million from state coffers. In the Western Cape, 17 projects were owed R196-million. Some of those waiting for money were from families evicted from District Six.

Nkwinti pointed out that grants were not paid directly to beneficiaries by his ministry, but transferred to “an acting agent”, most likely the relevant municipality, as directed by the Public Finance Management Fund.

The minister did not provide reasons for the withheld payments.

He also revealed, in response to another question by the DA, that the department owed nearly R268-million in deposits on land-restitution agreements.

It had bought 972 473 hectares of land for restitution purposes over the past three years in 1 300 deals, but in some cases it could not pay conveyancers’ trusts the required 50% deposit for lack of funds.

“Payment could not be effected in respect of some of the agreements due to budgetary constraints in the 2008/09 and 2009/10 financial years.”

In March, Nkwinti suggested that the government’s land-reform programmes had not been sustainable and confirmed that the target of transferring 30% of agricultural land to black farmers by 2014 would not be reached.

He revealed that at least nine out of 10 of emerging farmers given land under the government’s land-reform policy had failed to make a commercial success of their farmland.

A total of 5,9-million hectares had been redistributed since the end of apartheid, but 90% of that land was not productive.

In response to the problem, the government was planning to release millions of rands this year to recapitalise failing farms.

Nkwinti said land restitution and redistribution had been bedevilled by the lack of capacity of those who received land to “continue producing effectively and optimally on the land”.

In March, introducing his budget vote in the National Assembly, Nkwinti caused a stir when he announced that his department would soon propose, in a green paper, a three-tier system of land tenure.

He denied that this meant nationalisation was on the cards.—Sapa

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