President Jacob Zuma.
"This is an innovative proposal that needs to be tested," he told the first annual general meeting of the African Farmers' Association of South Africa (Afasa), which took place in Pretoria on Monday evening.
"It proposes that each district should establish a district land reform committee where all stakeholders are involved. This committee will be responsible for identifying 20% of the commercial agricultural land in the district and giving commercial farmers the option of assisting its transfer to black farmers."
Implementation of this land reform proposal would include five steps.
It would include identifying land readily available from land already in the market; land where the farmer was under severe financial pressure; land held by an absentee landlord willing to exit; and land in a deceased estate.
"In this way, land can be found without distorting markets."
Then the state would buy the land at 50% of its market value. This, Zuma said, would be closer to its fair productive value. The current owner's shortfall would be made up by cash or in-kind contributions from the commercial farmers in the district who volunteer to participate.
In exchange, commercial farmers would be protected from losing their land and gain black economic empowerment status.
"This should remove the uncertainty and mistrust that surrounds land reform and the related loss of investor confidence."
A stepped-up programme of financing would then be created, Zuma said. This would involve the national treasury, the Land Bank, and established white farmers.
"The model envisages that the cost of land reform be spread between all stakeholders. It also envisages new financial instruments being designed for the purpose of facilitating land reform."
These could include 40-year mortgages at preferential rates for new entrants into the markets, as well as land bonds that white farmers and others could invest in.
The fifth step would be to increase investment in agricultural research and development.
Zuma said agriculture was crucial in the government's drive to promote food security and economic growth.
"It is important to make people go back to the land, and not to view social grants, wage employment, and non-agricultural informal activities as the only source of income for rural households than agricultural employment."
While looking at the need to increase food production, the government would also prioritise transformation in the agricultural sector.
"The current state of affairs within the agricultural sector in South Africa is one where commercial and smallholder agriculture co-exist, the one sector being predominantly white and the other sector being predominantly black."
Commercial agriculture is currently producing 90% of the agricultural output. It is estimated that it consists of about 37 000 members.
On the other hand, 25-million people living in rural areas produce the remaining 10% through subsistence farming.
"More support for emerging farmers will enable us to improve the participation of black people, in particular Africans, in commercial agriculture."
Feeding the continent
In attendance at the event were Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson, and pastor Ray McCauley.
Mokonyane called on farmers to work together to feed the country and the continent.
"Let us not only farm for us to go to bed with a meal."
McCauley congratulated Afasa on its successful conference.
"Let me just say this in case you did not know this. God loves the farmer," he said to the crowd's appreciation. "Eve was the first farmer. She tended to the apples."
Joemat-Pettersson, who introduced Zuma, described him as a man of depth and the father of the nation.
"We support you and we will support you."
She said no weapon formed against him would succeed as he had looked after each and every farmer. – Sapa