Agri SA fully understands the need for land reform and the frustration with the apparent slow progress and is committed to orderly and sustainable land reform. However, politics and emotion dominated the debate on land in the Nasional Assembly on Tuesday. The EFF proposed a motion which can pave the way for the scrapping or amendment of the property clause in the Constitution. The ANC supported the motion with a number of amendments. The motion was also supported by some of the smaller political parties. The amendments proposed by the ANC includes that the matter should be dealt with by the constitutional review committee and was intended to bring the motion in line with the ANC congress resolution, that requires that such a step should increase agricultural production and improve food security.
Rational arguments regarding the possible implications that such a step may hold for the agricultural sector and the broader economy were absent from the debate. The fact is that financial institutions are substantially invested in the sector and that expropriation without compensation will also impact negatively on the banking sector. Such a step will probably lead to a situation where financial institution will no longer make production loans available to farmers. Without these loans, farmers cannot purchase seed, fertiliser, feed or implements and will be unable to produce. This may lead to food shortages, price increases, food related riots and social instability.
The ANC and EFF clearly did not take heed of the true facts regarding the failure of land reform seriously. It appears that the governing party has ignored the findings of the High-Level Panel on Key Legislation, which was appointed by Parliament. This panel found, after a thorough investigation, that the property clause and the requirement that compensation be paid upon expropriation, were not impediments to land reform. Instead, an insufficient budget, lack of political will, poor implementation and corruption were identified as impediments. It is apparently easier to amend the Constitution than to address the real problems bedeviling land reform.
Agri SA will participate in the consultations which will now follow and will utilise the best expertise available to impact the processes optimally. The organisation will also get legal- and other advice regarding the process that is now unfolding. Agri SA will rely heavily on the findings of the ADS / Landbouweekblad / Agri SA land audit that shows, amongst other things that twice as much land has been redistributed through the market, compared to land redistributed by government. Agri SA has some serious misgivings about the government land audit that was released recently, which is confusing and presents a skewed picture of land ownership. Agri SA is in favour of a fact-based approach to land reform based on partnerships. The organisation is working on a strategy in this regard together with other stakeholders in the sector.
Dan Kriek, Agri SA’s President warned that all property owners’ rights are at stake and that amending the property clause represents a step backwards into a past where the protection of property rights was not applied across the board. The right to property is a fundamental right that provides protection to black and white, rich and poor against unjust state interference. The denial of this protection is out of step with international practice and is not in the national interest, said Kriek.