Farm­ers are los­ing in­vest­ments

Price per hectare of farm­ing land is al­legedly de­creas­ing

Post - - NEWS - CHANELLE LUTCHMAN

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.

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