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Friday May 15, 2015

Land limit proposal surprises farmers

The proposal by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti to limit land ownership by large-scale farmers has caught them by surprise, the African Farmers Association of SA said yesterday.

"This came as a surprise to us. During our earlier engagements with him (the minister), he didn't mention these levels with us nor anyone from organised agriculture. We don't know how he came with those figures or farm sizes," said association secretary-general, Aggrey Mahanjana.

On Friday, speaking during his budget vote address in the National Assembly, Nkwinti said small, medium and large-scale would respectively be allowed to own 1 000 hectares (ha), 2 500ha and 5 000ha of land. The state planned to expropriate the remainder.

"Any excess land portions between each of these categories – small scale and medium scale; medium scale and large scale; and, above the 12 000ha maximum, shall be expropriated and redistributed; and compensation will be on the basis of the 'just and equitable' principle enshrined in section 25(3) of our constitution," the minister said.

Nkwinti said the limit government had previously mentioned of 12 000ha would not apply to agricultural land, but to forestries, game farms and renewable energy farms as these enterprises required vast areas of land.

The figure was advanced by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address in February.

Mahanjana said his organisation was concerned that the proposal "might open a can of worms" as smallholder farmers on less than 1 000 ha could start demanding more land.

The organisation was also concerned and worried "about the culture in government where money gets thrown into programmes which are badly implemented".

"We hope that the minister will announce strategies leading to effective implementation of these programmes," Mahanjana said.

The association would engage with both Nkwinti and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana on this, and several other issues affecting small development farmers.

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