I have written to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr Senzeni Zokwana, to request that he urgently extend the deadline for public comment on the Bill on Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Framework.
This Bill seeks to vest all agricultural land in the State as ‘custodian’ for the people of South Africa. It is a seriously problematic Bill that will cause further havoc in the agricultural sector.
The deadline for public comment is tomorrow, 30 May 2015. The public have only had one month in which to submit their comments on this Bill. Given the far-reaching consequences, the public should be given more time in which to submit their views.
Government interference on this scale in the agricultural sector undermines the freedom of emerging and commercial farmers to actively pursue opportunities to develop their businesses in a stable economic environment.
As it is, government is fundamentally failing to support emerging farmers, and to provide a stable policy framework for commercial farmers to grow and succeed.
There are several problematic areas in this Bill. Section three states that “as the custodian of the nation’s agricultural land, the Department may approve, reject, control, administer and manage any rezoning or subdivision of agricultural land.”
This Bill further states that the Minister could expropriate land which has not been optimally used for a certain period of time. “A farmer must – (a) actively use and develop the agricultural land concerned to its optimal agricultural potential, with due regard to the farming enterprise concerned, and if not used at all for agricultural purposes for 3 consecutive years, the Minister may consider the agricultural land concerned for expropriation at a lower price than would be paid for similar land in the same geographical area.”
Clearly, with such clauses, the public needs to be given more time to properly engage, comment and recommend alternatives to the proposals in this Bill.
The DA believes that the best interests of the South African people must be at the heart of any decision involving property rights of individuals and the dignity and autonomy that comes with property ownership.
Given these rights and the government’s poor track record in the management of national resources, it cannot be in the best interests of the emerging and commercial agriculture sectors for this Bill to be passed.
This Bill, in its current form, only serves to undermine the agricultural sector on which South Africans’ rely on for food security.
Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Source : Democratic Alliance