Govt allays commercial farmers' land grab fears

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pretoria - Government has used a one-day consultative meeting with commercial farmers to help allay their fears about land grabs.

The consultative gathering was initiated by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister, Gugile Nkwinti, with farmers' organisations, TAU SA, AgriSA and the Agricultural Business Chamber on Tuesday in Pretoria.

Speaking to reporters after their consultative meeting, Deputy President of AgriSA, Dr Theo de Jager, said: "From the farming community, there [are] always ... fears that there might be Zimbabwean-style land grabs by the civil society.

"We are glad that today we've come a long way to bridge the gap between commercial farmers and government on issues of insecurity as we've been on the receiving ends of most issues.

"We are grateful and [it is] refreshing that from now onwards, we will be working together with government and other stakeholders on all issues affecting us."

TAU SA chairperson of the central Gauteng region, Wannie Scribante, said: "It is true that some farmers are leaving the country because of the so-called land grab fears. However, as the farmer's organisation, we don't want to jeopardise everything in the industry, which is economically viable. We don't want to see the farming industry going down the drain."

Scribante said following their consultative meeting with the minister, though there is still more to be done, they are looking forward to working with government and other stakeholders in finding reasonable solutions regarding land reform in the country.

It was Nkwinti who announced that together with the farmers' unions, they would be drafting legislation on an Office Valuer-General (OVG), Land Management Commission (LMC) and Land Rights Management Board, which would support land reform.

"We've all agreed to work together, but we will continue to engage each other. This is a tremendous achievement since we are now moving towards the same direction and I want to reiterate that we will be representative with all the relevant stakeholders during this processes," he said.

Nkwinti noted that the creation of the Valuer-General was long overdue, adding that the OVG is a very important institution, given that the current system used by valuers is unknown.

The LMC, according to Nkwinti, will also help resolve the contradictions between surface rights and prospecting and/or mining rights.

He said there must be provincial Land Rights Management Board in all the nine provinces for efficiency and better decision making, adding that the board must consult local government prior to undertaking any development project within any local municipal space.