/ 4 September 2018

A black farmer pleads with parliament to leave the constitution alone

“I’ve tried commercial banks but
“I’ve tried commercial banks but, because of my credit score, it is so difficult to get a loan, and the Land Bank uses the same scale,” Ramodisa Monaisa said.

Ramodisa Monaisa travelled from his small farm in the North West to Parliament where he had one request for MPs tasked with deciding if the Constitution should be amended to allow land expropriation without compensation: don’t do it.

On the outskirts of Mahikeng, in an area called Mareetsane, Monaisa employs just one person on his farm. The land is owned by the department of rural development, who have made it available for Monaisa to start his farming business.

But it hasn’t worked.

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Review Committee in Parliament began hearing oral submissions from institutions on whether section 25 of the Constitution should be amended. The hearings are taking place for the next four days inside the Old Assembly Building in Parliament.

Monaisa made his submission as a beneficiary of Grain SA, an organisation that provides skills and financial support when possible to grain producers in South Africa.

As a black farmer, Monaisa’s submission drew interest from MPs, as he pleaded for the Constitution to remain as it is because land ownership, he said, would not help black farmers unless they are also supported with resources.

“You will give us land and you will render us useless,” he said.

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In the 15 years that he has been farming, Monaisa has made scant progress with commercial farming. He does not have money to plough, and he cannot compete with commercial farmers.

“I’ve tried commercial banks but, because of my credit score, it is so difficult to get a loan, and the Land Bank uses the same scale,” Monaisa said.

He feels that his land has been made useless, and he has felt useless as an entrepreneur.

“The biggest problem is, as black farmers, we become as if we cannot perform. As if we cannot work. If we can get funding like commercial white farmers, we can do it,” he said.

On paper, Monaisa says he has it all. In 15 years, he has gained extensive knowledge and experience, but the drawback has always been funding.

Grain SA chief executive Jannie de Villiers argued that land alone would not sustain black farmers, and partnerships would be required with commercial farmers and small black farming enterprises.

“Land alone will not restore the dignity of those that were negatively affected by the previous dispensation,” De Villiers said.

“Partnerships and joint ventures with current commercials farmers are also key to gain quick ground in this regard.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Agriculture Business Chamber (AgriBiz) — a member association of agricultural businesses around South Africa — also disagreed that section 25 should be amended and instead issued support for the recommendations contained in the High-Level Panel report on land reform.

Theo Boshoff, a manager of AgriBiz’s legal team, said that amending the Constitution would impact on food security and could result in a dire economic situation where access to loans may be restricted.

“Financiers have a fiduciary duty to mitigate their risk when lending large sums of depositors’ money,” Boshoff said.

“EWC poses a risk which increases the risk of lending to everyone in the sector.”

Boshoff argued that if there is land expropriation without compensation, then farmers would need loans for infrastructure which would require collateral.

The hearings are continuing inside Parliament. For Monaisa, if land is to be made available to black farmers who should benefit from land reform, then support should be made available too.

“Let’s try to help black farmers because we are hungry. We cannot stay long with this hunger,” he said.