by Boitumelo Babuseng MPL – DA Northern Cape Alternative Provincial Spokesperson of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform
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Date: 26 June 2018
Note to Editors: The following is an extract from a speech presented by Boitumelo Babuseng MPL at the annual Budget Vote Debate for the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform at the Frances Baard District Municipality chambers in Kimberley today.
It is ironic that today’s debate on the budget vote for the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform falls on the same day, and at the same time, as the first public hearing of the Constitutional Review Committee in Springbok.
Given the linkage between this department and the proposed amendments to Section 25 of the Constitution, I would not be doing justice to emerging, communal and commercial farmers of the Northern Cape, if I stayed silent on the matter of expropriation without compensation.
Hon. Speaker, the fact that this department, and its political head, is one of the frontrunners for expropriation without compensation, immediately casts a shadow on the way that this department has previously and continues to allocate its budget.
In essence, it makes us wonder exactly why so many land reform projects, with boundless potential to stimulate job creating growth, have failed to get off the ground.
It also makes us wonder why, after so many years, so many Communal Property Associations continue to be unproductive and remain mired in conflict.
Even the department’s very own entity, the Kalahari Kid Corporation, was left out in the cold for eight years, before the Hon. Shushu was last year finally forced to give it the time of day, after extensive pressure from the legislature portfolio committee.
This, Hon. Speaker, is a project that was meant to formalize the South African goat industry.
This is a project that was touted as having the potential to create 400 new jobs for the province, with 2000 people benefitting and export earnings possibly reaching R25 million by 2020.
Surely a provincial department that we can applaud for having the best disaster response in the country, could have done more to get goat cooperatives up and running – unless Hon. Shushu never really wanted KKC to become successful in the first place?
But why would an MEC risk his own reputation, to see land reform fail?
Is it perhaps because of orchestrated “match-fixing” in the land reform programme, to suit predetermined political agendas?
Hon. Speaker, for many years now, land reform has been designed to fail because of a basic lack of will to see it succeed.
This failure is now being used to support the ANC’s flawed argument that constitutional change, that will see property rights revoked, is needed to successfully pursue land reform.
It is undeniable that patterns of land ownership remain intolerably skewed. This however has nothing to do with the Constitution. Instead, the Constitution is just a smokescreen for the ANC’s own land reform failures.
Failure to provide adequate support and extension services has resulted in the decline in farm productivity in countless projects and their inability to improve the socio-economic conditions and livelihoods of the beneficiaries.
Surely this lack of support could, to a large degree, have been prevented if more care was taken to invest more prudently in beneficiary support, rather than grandstanding.
A case in point is eventual termination this year, of the contract with the National Agricultural Marketing Council for the vineyard development project. This, only after more than R70 million was already spent on “infertile” transfers to NAMC over a number of years.
Delays in the transfer of land to beneficiaries and the issuing of title deeds, as well as corruption by government officials, are also to blame.
Title deeds are withheld from emerging farmers, forcing them to lease land from government. This in turn inhibits farmers from going to financial institutes like banks or from buying a vehicle to help with the business or buying feed for the animals.
It also prevents them from having the peace of mind that, one day when they pass on, they can know that they will be leaving something to their children, and that they can be buried in the land that they have loved and worked for so many years.
In the past, this department would say that leasing the land to farmers was in line with government’s objective to build the economy and tackle the challenge of unemployment. Now, they don’t have to sugarcoat it anymore.
The truth is out. The withholding of title deeds has actually been a delay tactic, meant to keep as much land in the hands of the state while the ruling party sought a mechanism to make all land owners permanent tenants. This mechanism is expropriation without compensation.
Hon. Speaker, expropriation without compensation would mean that not one of the six black producers in the Northern Cape, who is set to become commercialised during this financial year, will receive title deeds to the land that they are farming.
Hon. Shushu calls it a “complicated matter”. The DA calls it a spineless excuse to avoid entrusting land to new and old farmers.
Hon. Speaker, expropriation without compensation is the biggest current day obstruction to our democracy, the biggest possible affront to our human dignity, and the biggest threat to agriculture and food security.
On this note, I also wish to briefly highlight other hurdles in agriculture in the Northern Cape.
The danger of this department working in silos from its sister departments is very real and must not be disregarded.
COGHSTA and local government have a big stake in agriculture, whether they like to admit it or not:
• Excessive increases in property rates of up to 200%, that are currently being tabled in a number of municipalities across the province, are threatening to bankrupt farmers, some of whose payments have shot up from R2000 to R100 000. This is most unreasonable.
• The management of the large majority of commonage land under the control of municipalities, is chaotic and uncoordinated at best.
• The impact of persistent drought conditions is also exacerbated by local government’s failure to make any provision for disasters.
At the same time, the Roads and Public Works Department also has shares in agriculture:
• Increasingly poor road conditions are debilitating farming enterprises. In some instances, professional transporters have refused to ferry agricultural products from certain areas, like the Kalahari, for the past two years, due to inferior road conditions. In effect, farmers can’t get their animals and products out to suppliers. This is crippling agri-business.
• The situation is aggravated by the inefficiency of the Northern Cape Fleet Management Trading Entity, which can take up to six weeks to implement minor repairs on a grader that could otherwise have been fixed in under 30 minutes.
Hon. Speaker, if agriculture in the Northern Cape is to prosper, it needs the backing of the Constitution, it needs the unwavering support of the ruling party and it needs the high level intervention of all government departments.
At the moment, however, it doesn’t have any of these. Instead, the ANC is more concerned about retaining power than it is about creating employment and economic benefits for the people of the Northern Cape.
The DA therefore doesn’t support budget vote 12.
Boitumelo Babuseng MPL
DA Northern Cape Alternative Provincial Spokesperson of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform
079 874 6179
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387