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This is how Govt’s new land policies will work – BHEKI CELE

Deputy minister says ceiling of 12 000 hectares does not mean that 12 000 hectares of land will be precured for each Land Reform applicant.

The year 2015, marks 60 years of the Freedom Charter, a historical moment in which all South Africans, from all walks of life expressed their ideas and dreams of a liberated South Africa. The President has spoken at length on the importance of understanding the Freedom Charter and the progressive implementation thereof.

Besides our Constitution, the National Development Plan (NDP) too builds on the aspirations of the Freedom Charter. Today we still aspire to achieving much of what stands in the Freedom Charter, more especially in creating a country where The Land Shall be Shared Among Those Who Work it.

The targets set out by the President, begins to address the challenges experienced, including:

1. Fifty (50) farming enterprises will be identified as a pilot project regarding the 50/50 policy framework, which proposes relative rights for people who live and work on farms.

2. The establishment of Agri-parks or cooperatives and clusters within the poorest 27 district municipalities of the country;

3. A ceiling of land ownership will be set at a MAXIMUM of 12 000 hectares (ha) by any natural or legal person. Foreign nationals will not be allowed to own land in South Africa but will be eligible for long-term lease;

4. 1 million jobs to be generated in Agriculture, and;

5. To bring 1 million hectares of underutilized land into production.

Honourable members, before we enter into frivolous talks par grade 5 debating acumen of throwing figures and mathematics about how much land black people will own in this country, I want to reassure the house, that the ceiling of 12 000 hectares does not mean that we will be procuring 12 000 hectares of land for each Land Reform applicant.

Ladies and gentlemen this is a MAXIMUM ceiling set to include all commodities. We are aware that 12 000 hectares exceeds the average farm size. But as you may know economies of scale differs among various production systems e.g. grazing land for livestock producers need much more land than wine or maize producers. The 12 000 hectare ceiling is meant to cover all producers. Therefore we need to discourage the practice of throwing the Freedom Charter into a political football in this house.

Ladies and Gentlemen to achieve these targets and to effect transformation of the sector and ensure that all South Africans benefit from growth in the sector, require greater synergy and collaboration with the sector and among several departments, more especially the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. To this end the Political leadership and management of these departments have forged a greater partnership, one which has not existed before.

We are striving to overcome challenges of duplication and overlap by clearly defining roles and responsibilities. While the role of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is more centered around rural development, land restitution and redistribution, the task of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is to keep transferred land productive, allowing previously disadvantaged individuals to benefit from agricultural business, and to manage the growth of the sector towards a more inclusive rural economy.

However, for this to happen, more women and youth must be assisted to enter this formally restricted profession, to previously disadvantaged individuals.

The President, through the SONA, thus instructed the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Rural Development and Land Reform to lead and establish Agri-Parks in each of the 27 poorest districts. A budget, of R2 billion is set aside for this, which will progressively increase through existing budgets.

However, whilst Land Reform has many success stories, we have not progressed with the desired outcomes. There are failures that left many productive farms abandoned lying fallow. Effective participation in the sector by previously disadvantaged communities will however only happen when they have access to land and the means to work it. More importantly though is our capacity as the state to create the condition under which they become effective participants in Agricultural markets.

The President has therefore pronounced on the commodity based approach of the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP), and the further pursuance of the 50/50 arrangement between farmers and farm workers.

We already know of progressive farmers who have begun to implement the principle of 50/50, where farm workers and farmers share ownership of the farm.

The APAP on the other hand, through Outcome 4 of the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), proposes spatial economic plans aimed at guiding government investment through a value chain approach, targeting priority commodities identified in the National Development Plan.

The APAP problematizes growth constraints, with actions shared among key role players within the sector. Its purpose is to drive a more inclusive market agenda geared at job creation and in turn greater food security.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we furthermore seek to create virgin projects, together with agricultural graduates, sector organisations and surrounding communities. Government will invest in expanding its support programmes in order for land to be converted into active vibrant farming projects.

New farmers entering the Agricultural market will be further encouraged to farm with commodities of high growth potential, and high labour absorption, identified in APAP.

To support these farms and ensure massive economic growth, government aims to create an enabling environment by providing appropriate infrastructure in the form of fencing, dip tanks, equipment, veterinarian services, and extension support. We will further encourage our entities like the Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) to provide affordable access to animal vaccines for improved production, and institutions like the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), to share their knowledge and resources such as drought resistant maize cultivars.

We further aim to use government as a procurer of agricultural produce and food as support to smallholders, further allowing them access to both local and international markets.

Through these support programmes we better position our farmers to become self-reliant and to participate in existing markets without the dependency on government support.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Land in itself is not an infinite resource, hence fertile land and agricultural land including grazing land must be protected. The President has therefore called on the protection of land against foreign ownership.

This honourable members is not a unique practice, many other countries in the world are advanced in this phenomenon. The European Union, on the other hand, effectively circumscribes the right of Member States to restrict or regulate the ownership of land by foreigners who are nationals of other Member States.

Moreover, cases like these include the Republic of Ireland, where foreigners (except those with 7 years continuous residence) are required to obtain the permission of the Land Commission to purchase land or hold a lease, mortgage or contractual interest, such as an option, in agricultural land.

As further measures to protect agricultural land, the department is in the process of gazetting three forestry and natural resource management bills for public consultation. These are:

The draft Bills on the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Framework,

The National Forests Act amendment; and

The National Veld and Forest Fires Act amendment.

FISHERIES

Fisheries, is one of the least transformed sectors, and therefore requires radical transformation approach from government. This will further promote and enhance efforts to create new opportunities for previously disadvantaged communities.

The Fishing Rights Allocation Process is one of government’s efforts to democratize the Fishing industry, notwithstanding its own short comings.

As such the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has extended the existing fishing rights until February 2016, affording government the time to find a more permanent solution.

The Minister further plans to engage big players of the fishing industry, such as I&J, Sea Harvest, Oceana, Blue Continental and Viking, to encourage them to work together with government in finding a lasting solution for the transformation of the sector.

In the spirit of Operation Phakisa, we further seek to extend fishing activities from the West Coast to the East Coast. As it stands all fishing ports are on the West Coast and none in the East. To expand this industry requires that we optimize the harvest potential of the full 3 700 km of our coast line, which means creating new fishing ports on the East Coast.

We will furthermore work hard in developing Aquaculture, which will further assist communities in job creation and food security.

FORESTRY

This is an industry that needs greater alignment within government. As it stands various aspects of Forestry management falls under five different departments, including the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the DTI, Public Works and Environmental Affairs.

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will therefore lead discussion on how best government could be structured in order to lead the industry more effectively.

Forestry is currently worth 4,2 billion US dollars, and yet highly monopolized. There are many irregularities in the industry, and many of the big plantations are under land claim. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has committed itself to re-dress this challenge.

Ladies and gentlemen, the country has been afforded a momentous opportunity by the Council of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), to host the 14th World Forestry Congress. This congress is being arranged in collaboration with the FAO and will bring together about 10 000 participants representing forestry and related disciplines to share lessons, experiences and best practices as well as to explore policy and practical solutions.

The Congress will take place from the 7th to the 11th September, 2015 in Durban at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre.

Honourable members now, more than ever before, we’ve refocused our energies on taking matters of rural safety forward in fulfilling our goal of becoming the solution to the challenges in our space. As such the Minister has led several discussions with farming communities, and further engagements will take place with organization such as AgriForum.

On this note we urge the politicians of this house to stop their divisive propaganda by talking on behalf of communities they do not truly represent, and instigating racial tension where there is none. We have direct contact with the farming communities, and we know very well that those killed on farms are farmers, both black and white, including farm workers.

In this regard, we are working together with the Criminal Justice Cluster, in particular the SAPS on the effective implementation of the rural safety strategy. We therefore call on all farming communities to work towards a peaceful solution, without flaring racial tension, and to defend themselves by creating a peaceful environment.

In closing I would like to echo the words of the President, and call on all South Africans to use the prescripts of the Freedom Charter to contribute to improving the lives of all South Africans. To get back to the basic human principle of serving others, and create a South Africa which belong to all who live in it, and where the land is shared among those who work it.

Siyaqhuba

I thank you

Issued by the ANC, February 18 2015

Bheki Cele 18 February 2015