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ANC not serious about land reform, opposition parties say

OPPOSITION parties say the absence of any significant new announcement on the contentious land reform process proves the ruling African National Congress is not serious about it.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Wednesday that the government’s agricultural policy action plan to support the National Development Plan’s (NDP’s) target of creating a million jobs in the agriculture sector entailed a R7bn investment in conditional grants to provinces.

These grants would be used to “support about 435,000 subsistence and 54,500 smallholder farmers and to improve extension services”, Mr Gordhan said. The aim was to boost domestic food production and reduce reliance on imports. The Fetsa Tlala food security initiative aimed to bring an additional 1-million hectares into cultivation by 2019, creating 300,000 jobs.

Mr Gordhan said the comprehensive agriculture support programme grant, which receives R1.6bn a year over the medium term, aimed to increase production from land farmed by beneficiaries of land reform.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said Mr Gordhan appeared to be conflating two separate issues: land reform and restitution, and investment in agricultural production.

“Technically these are two very separate departments,” Mr Mulder said.

On Tuesday the National Assembly voted on the Land Rights Amendment Bill that reopens land claims for those who were forcibly removed from their land from 1913 onwards. The Freedom Front Plus and the Democratic Alliance opposed the bill, but for different reasons.

“The land reform process will cause major uncertainty in the rural areas as it will probably be a 20-year process and farmers will not invest in their land as they are adopting a wait-and-see attitude,” Mr Mulder said.

DA MP Kevin Mileham said the estimates of national expenditure released by the Treasury on Wednesday showed that R9bn had been allocated for 2014-15 to land restitution, which was exactly the same as previous allocations.

“We estimate that R169bn will be needed,” he said.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said she welcomed the announcement as it would support small-scale farmers who were the beneficiaries of land reform.

“Since the 1970s the agricultural sector had been losing jobs, but since 2011 we have reversed that trend and it is now a net job creator,” she said.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson said international organisations such as the United Nations were purchasing food from small-scale farmers in South Africa. “This shows that our reform process works.”

Source Business Day, Paul Vecchiatto

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