Own­ing a farm is a priv­i­lege, not a right

CityPress - - News -

Ev­ery morn­ing at 5am be­fore start­ing work on his fruit farm just out­side Tza­neen in Lim­popo, The­uns Botha (56) reads the Bi­ble and kneels down for a prayer to “thank the Lord for the priv­i­lege” of own­ing the land.

“It is not a right that I have so it is a priv­i­lege to have a farm like this and run it,” says Botha, who is closely mon­i­tor­ing the on­go­ing par­lia­men­tary hear­ings on land ex­pro­pri­a­tion without com­pen­sa­tion.

At least one por­tion of his farm has been claimed by a com­mu­nity that was force­fully dis­pos­sessed un­der the former apartheid govern­ment.

Botha in­her­ited a 36 hectare plot of land “with debt” from his grand­fa­ther, who bought the prop­erty “many years ago”.

He rented neigh­bour­ing sec­tions of land to farm, and even­tu­ally bought the prop­er­ties to grow his land own­er­ship port­fo­lio to just about 200ha.

The farm, La­p­land, pro­duced 12 000 tons of man­goes, 6 000 tonnes of av­o­ca­dos, 300 tons of guavas and 10 tonnes of litchis over the past year, says Botha, adding that his pro­duc­tion costs run up to R1 mil­lion ev­ery year.

He cites Wool­worths and a lo­cal juice-mak­ing fac­tory among his top clients. The leftovers go to the ex­port mar­ket.

Botha says that he em­ploys 36 peo­ple on his farm. They are like fam­ily and he even knows their chil­dren.

“Some have been here for more than 20 years and I have a good re­la­tion­ship with them. They are my most valu­able as­sets. I need them to spray for me and pick for me.

“I have a mean team this side,” he says.

Botha men­tions Ge­orge Makhubela, one of his driv­ers and a handy­man, who is a pas­tor in his com­mu­nity and works from Tues­day to Sun­day so that he can do his church work on Mon­days.

Botha’s con­gre­ga­tion sup­ports Makhubela’s church by cov­er­ing ex­penses such as elec­tric­ity.

If the land ex­pro­pri­a­tion pol­icy is im­ple­mented, Botha says he is wor­ried about “what is go­ing to hap­pen to my peo­ple who work for me”.

“Most farms in this area went out of busi­ness soon af­ter the land was given back be­cause the peo­ple had no train­ing,” he says.

He has a mas­ters in plant pathol­ogy from the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria.

His sec­ond con­cern is about the threat to ap­pro­pri­ate the land for free.

“We have also put mil­lions of our money into these farms and all of a sud­den [they will be] taken without com­pen­sa­tion. That does not make sense.”

He says that he is not op­posed to peo­ple get­ting their land back, but “the truth is that if you get some­thing for free you do not ap­pre­ci­ate it”.

“We started from scratch here with noth­ing and a lot of debt and that is how we be­gan to ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

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