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Over half of state-owned farms produce nothing

About half of the farms the government bought for land reform are not leased to anyone and no food is produced on it. In addition, more than 80% of community associations that own common land are malfunctioning and do not fulfill their legal obligations. The associations together with the Ingonyama trust own about 3.8 million hectares of agricultural land. This is equivalent to half of Mpumalanga.

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About half of the farms the government bought for land reform are not leased to anyone and no food is produced on it.

In addition, more than 80% of community associations that own common land are malfunctioning and do not fulfill their legal obligations. The associations together with the Ingonyama trust own about 3.8 million hectares of agricultural land. This is equivalent to half of Mpumalanga.

This is evidenced by a series of written questions asked by MPs last year to Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development Thoko Didiza, to which she provided answers on Thursday and Friday. In it, she paints a shocking picture of community property associations, better known as CPAs, and how these systems have largely failed.

Didiza said the government-owned 6,459 farms purchased for land reform. Of these, only 3,172 are leased.

“That means half of the productive agricultural land that the state has purchased for land reform has been taken out of production,” says economist Johann Bornman, who conducted the first full land audit two years ago since 1994.

“The loss of production comes as the agricultural industry tries to survive one of the worst droughts the country has had in decades and there is tremendous uncertainty among investors about property rights due to plans to amend the Constitution,” says Bornman.

Didiza’s answers, however, it’s misleading, as it is impossible for the government to actually buy so many farms. “Didiza says these are farms, but they are probably title deeds of the farms that the state bought. More than 90% of the farms in South Africa consist of more than one title deed to form an economic unit, ”says Bornman. According to his audit, by the end of 1998, the government owned about 2.35 million hectares of agricultural land purchased for land reform. If Didiza’s figure is really farmed, it means that each farm is about 360 ha on average – hopelessly too small.

The DA’s questions were prompted by Annette Steyn, spokesperson on agriculture, who asked numerous MPs to separately ask questions about state-owned agricultural land in each province. Each province was also asked to explain why state-owned agricultural land is not leased.

The reasons included:

* Some farms are occupied by more than one tenant and have yet to be subdivided;

* Some farms are no longer rentable because they are occupied by communities;

* Some farms have been transferred to leaseholders and problems must first be resolved with the legal entities with which lease agreements are entered into.

“Most of it is untrue,” says Steyn. “I am inundated with complaints from black farmers who rent land from the state, but who have been notified to leave the farm when the lease expires. So far, the leases have been awarded for between one and three years. ”

The DA began to pressure the department to award leases for 30 years with options to black farmers to buy the land after five or ten years.

“For the past five years, almost no new leases have been awarded. And if a farmer has no lease for the land, he cannot get an advance from a cooperative or a bank for seed or equipment. Such a farm stops producing very quickly, ”says Steyn.

The government does not want to grant title deeds for fear that landlords will sell the land.

Questions by Kenneth Montwedi, the EFF’s spokesman on agriculture, showed that the system of community property associations created in 1996 so that there are legal entities that can own land on common land is a lamentable failure.

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