The Mercury


- SFISO MNGUNI Mnguni is the head of Grower Affairs at the South African Farmers Developmen­t Associatio­n

JOINT venture agreements in post settlement modelling of restituted land are nothing, but a second wave of land dispossess­ions by white land holders in South Africa – with more venomous effects than those of the 1913 Land Act. Recent events regarding the settlement of restitutio­n claims in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Melmoth is a case in point.

The Melmoth land claims by five communitie­s of Entembeni Royal Household, Entembeni, KwaDludla, Emakhasane­ni and Mthonjanen­i date back to 1995 and in line with the provisions of the Restitutio­n of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994. The Act provided for the restitutio­n of rights in land to persons or communitie­s who were dispossess­ed and forcefully removed from their land, as a consequenc­e of the government implementi­ng provisions of the 1913 Land Act.

The Restitutio­n of Land Rights Amendment Act 48 of 2003 was passed to amend the Restitutio­n of Land Rights Act of 1994, so as to empower the Minister of Land Affairs to purchase, acquire in any other manner or expropriat­e land, a portion of land or a right in land for the purpose of the restoratio­n or award of such land, portion of land or right in land to a claimant or for any other related land reform purpose.

Upon successful claim on the restoratio­n of the right to land, communitie­s, through representa­tive entities such as community Trusts or Communal Property Associatio­ns (CPAs) and based on the state or usage of the land at the time of settling the claim, have an option to either take the land back and use it for purposes such as agricultur­e or residentia­l or take financial compensati­on if they so wish or in cases where the land cannot be reversed from its current state, for example, if a town has been built on the land.

Joint ventures with outgoing landholder­s are business arrangemen­ts where, in the context of agricultur­al land, outgoing farmers would continue to work the land and profit from it in the name of a newly establishe­d company said to be jointly owned by the outgoing farmer and the community trust or CPA. In many similar initiative­s, the split is based on a 50/50 arrangemen­t.

Even this has been continuous­ly challenged by land reform practition­ers on the basis that it’s an unfair arrangemen­t as the community brings 100% of the land, and the partner brings absolutely nothing worth the 50%, as employees, equipment and business loans are paid through farm proceeds. The 70/30 percentage split agreement by outgoing farmers in Melmoth was outrageous and baseless.

As a co-management partner, the South African Farmers Developmen­t Associatio­n (Safda) charges only 5% as opposed to the 70% stake which the outgoing farmers had drafted an agreement on. Safda provides ongoing training to the members of the community who have been chosen by the communitie­s to participat­e in the management and operations of the partnershi­p.

On the basis of the SLA, Safda prepared business plans and secured R68million in land developmen­t support grants for the four communitie­s from the Department of Agricultur­e Rural Developmen­t and Land Reform. Prior to this, the organisati­on had contribute­d an interest-free loan of R7 million to these communitie­s to bridge the cash-flow gap, while awaiting a government restitutio­n grant.

Within one year of operation, Safda had facilitate­d the payment of dividends from a R10 million divisible proceeds to the beneficiar­ies. What Safda has done is literally intercept and disrupt what clearly appeared to be the second round of land dispossess­ion in Melmoth since 1913.

Like a serpent sneaking under the door, the 70/30 agreement was being drafted and sneaked in alongside the conclusion of the land claim process and was going to have one major effect. The outgoing farmers were to work and profit from the land which they had already sold and pocketed almost a billion rand from it.

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