Most conflicts among emerging farmers who are leasing state farms are caused by occupants who are illegally sub-letting, North West Premier Thandi Modise was told during a meeting held with representatives of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFSA) this week.
In welcoming the establishment of District Land Reform Committees, Premier Modise said that the committees would serve as representative and transparent mechanisms to assist the land reform beneficiary selection process, prevent corruption and looting of state resources.
“As an agriculture province that is positioning itself as the food basket for the country and the rest of the continent, we are excited that the recapitalisation and development programme will prioritise guidance and mentoring of emerging farmers and link them with strategic partners. The inclusion of representatives of farmers leasing state farms and other community groups will ensure that only deserving farmers benefit from the programme,” stressed Modise.
Clarity provided during the meeting held with the Premier on Wednesday in Mahikeng was that allegations that state farms were being sold to some farmers while a moratorium on sale of state land declared in 2010 by the Minister of Land Affairs and Rural Development was still in place were ill-informed as only transactions that were signed off by previous Ministers were proceeded with.
Representatives from AFSA had requested the intervention of Premier Modise as they also alleged that officials from the Department of Land Affairs and Rural Development are exploiting the recapitalisation programme to evict tenants who had in some cases leased the state farms for decades in favour of their acquaintances.
The department confirmed that bush encroachment, fencing, water reticulation and basic infrastructure on state farms are to be improved during the recapitalisation. One hundred and ninety seven thousand hectares farms leased by139 farmers in Dr. Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District are to form part of the first phase of the programme to be implemented this year.
AFASA President Gideon Morule welcomed Premier Modise’s directive that the Department of Land Affairs and Rural Development should investigate complains of ill-treatment and rude officials who were identified by members of his organisation during the meeting and take appropriate action.
The Premier is planning engagements involving other farmers’ organisations as the provincial government is concerned about illegal game farms, unproductive and underutilised leased state farms and resale of land acquired by emerging farmers through the ELRAD programme.
Invitations will be extended to the Ministers of Land Affairs & Rural Development and Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery to be part of the Land Reform Indaba that the province is planning to host later in the year.