The Western Cape Government wishes to point out to the Mail and Guardian that we have never claimed to have a constitutional mandate over land reform.
In a report this morning (“The DA’s dodgy land claims”) the newspaper makes the obvious point that the constitutional mandate for land reform lies with national government, but then incorrectly implies that the province cannot claim success for projects within its borders.
The success of land reform projects in the province – compared to elsewhere in South Africa – is precisely because the provincial Department of Agriculture supports emerging farmers using a highly effective and unique approach not utilised in any other province.
If the Mail and Guardian has just discovered how the Constitution works, this is no excuse to manufacture a front page lead implying that land reform success in the Western Cape cannot be attributed to the provincial government.
On the contrary, land reform succeeds in the Western Cape because of the provincial government, and despite national land reform policy that prevents emerging farmers from gaining title over the land their businesses operate on.
Since 2014 we have supported 357 Land reform Projects with over R500 million in CASP funding, the Comprehensive Agricultural Support grant that all provinces are required to use to support land reform.
We also leverage approximately R80 million per annum from the private sector to support emerging farmers.
This is made possible through our unique partnership with 11 commodity groupings, representing sectors ranging from horticulture to livestock. Support includes market access contracts, production support and technical assistance.
The Provincial Government has created a specialist entity – Casidra – that provides additional technical support to farmers, for example, procuring equipment and infrastructure on a beneficiary’s behalf and ensuring it is delivered.
Our teams of Agri-economists, Farmer Support and Development Officers and Extension Advisors conduct thousands of farm visits per year, helping farmers with all manner of technical advice, including the preparation of business plans to access state and private funding.
Land reform in South Africa will never succeed unless professional support is provided to emerging farmers by provincial agricultural departments.
The Western Cape remains the only province to conduct an independent audit of all land reform projects within its borders.
A total of 62% of Land Reform projects are successful, with a target for the next 5 years being 70%, with a follow-up audit is being conducted and will be complete around October 2018.
Beneficiaries rated all of our key support areas above 84%, and in most cases in the nineties – including Training Courses, Mentorship, Market Access Support, and Farm Development Support.
This is a remarkable success rate given the many challenges the sector faces, including drought and poorly conceived national land reform policy – known as the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS).
The PLAS policy – together with the national State Land Lease and Disposal Policy – only allows for 30-year leases to be obtained by black farmers, with an option to renew for 20 years. Only after 50 years may ownership of the land be transferred to the farmer.
The implication of 50 year leases is that farmers do not have fixed collateral to access production capital from financial institutions. This poses a risk to the entire business as the farmer will have to seek government support to bridge the shortfall needed for input costs.
The Western Cape government whole-heartedly supports a position that title deeds should be given to farmers who can demonstrate the capacity to run a successful agri-business. Fifty years under current national policy is far too long, and cuts farmers off from accessing funds through financial institutions.