Farmers are losing investments
Price per hectare of farming land is allegedly decreasing
THE issues of illegal land grabs and expropriation without compensation remain a daily concern for many Indian farmers. Late last week a leaked document, believed to have been written by former president Thabo Mbeki, criticised the ANC’s approach to land reform and said it was not in line with the governing party’s non-racial policy.
This document now has Indian farmers questioning whether the ruling party has their interests at heart.
According to the report, Mbeki accused the ANC of abandoning its multiracial principles and becoming a “black party” due to its new land distribution policy.
President Cyril Ramphosa has said the Constitution would be changed to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation, in a bid to redistribute land to black people who have suffered severe inequality that exists 24 years into democracy.
With the country heading towards a general election next year, the ANC remains adamant that “every group has a home here and it is still a home for all”.
“I don’t see why a certain group feels they would be targeted,” said ANC provincial spokesperson, Nomagugu Simelane.
“But in relation to redistribution, we will look at every race group not just one.”
Simelane, who described the 30-page document as an “opinion paper”, added that the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) would take up the matter with Mbeki.
“While he is entitled to have his own opinion on the policy, there is a platform to raise these concerns,” said Simelane.
She said while some felt the party was favouring one race above others, it was not true.
“If you look at our members, we have members from all race groups. We are not concerned about the matters raised. It will create a debate for the NEC but for us our focus is on maintaining a non-racial society.”
The chairperson of the Umdloti Farmers’ Association, Willie Naicker, said since the ANC adopted expropriation of land without compensation as a resolution at its 54th national conference last year, farmers remained in the dark on whether – and when – this would affect them.
He said the association, which was established in 2002 and had a membership of about 40, had perused a “claims document” and “our area is not earmarked”
But this, said Naicker, was not an indication they were safe.
“There is uncertainty whether or not we will be affected by expropriation.”
Naicker, a fourth generation farmer who owns 200 hectares of land for sugar cane and vegetable farming, said the land had been in his family for almost 100 years.
Since the ANC’s national conference last year, where land without expropriation was discussed, he had noticed “instability” in Umdloti.
“People have stopped investing,” he said.
“In order for us to produce, we need to get orders and it takes a while for our crops to grow. Sugar cane needs about 18 months. But with the uncertainty and land invasions, people have stopped investing for fear of our crops being damaged by invaders. They are just waiting to see what happens.”
The father of two said farming was his sole source of income.
“It’s something in my blood. I grew up farming. I would have liked my two kids to continue and keep this farm for another 100 years. However, with all the uncertainty, I always wonder if I would want them to be stuck with these issues.”
While the report has ruffled a few feathers among the ruling party, and the EFF slamming Mbeki for criticising its approach on land reform, Manna Naidoo, of Hazelmere, said he and other Indian farmers had sleepless nights worrying about land grabs.
“It has not affected some of us yet, but it is coming and we know it. In Tea Estate, we know there are local leaders claiming to be in charge and telling people to take the land they want.
“Last year one person tried to set up home here but we managed to stop him with the help of law enforcement. We are aware they (the invaders) could make their way up here and occupy the vacant land but I don’t feel it’s fair. This land has been in my family since my great-grandfather arrived in South Africa and started farming,” said the fourth generation fruit farmer.
The deputy chief executive for Afriforum, Ernst Roets, said there was uncertainty with regard to land policy and that the ANC needed to be clear with people.
According to Agridevelopment Solutions’ latest report, since the issue of land expropriation without compensation was raised, the value of farming land had declined by 30%.
“This means that the average price of a hectare is much lower than what it was in the previous years. There is a sense that people don’t want to invest any more.”
Manna Naidoo said his concerns around the fate of his farm grows every day.
Former president Thabo Mbeki is alleged to have written the 30-page document, which has sparked much debate.