President Cyril Ramaphosa says the country’s land reform programme is gaining momentum, with over two million land claimants having benefitted from land restitution, resulting in the transfer of around 2.7 million hectares.
“To date, government has redistributed over five million hectares of land, totalling around 5 500 farms to more than 300 000 beneficiaries,” President Ramaphosa said.
He was speaking at the handing over of land and title deeds to farmers in Tafelkop in Groblersdal, Limpopo, on Saturday.
The handover ceremony, the culmination of a land reform process, saw 30 black farmers presented with title deeds.
The farmers have been successfully farming various agricultural produce for 25 years on the land and the Public Works and Infrastructure Department transferred the land on a gratis basis for land redistribution purposes.
In 2000, the then Department of Agriculture entered into lease agreements with the Tafelkop Farmers Association in terms of the Land Redistribution through Agricultural Development (LRAD) program.
In 2009, the former Limpopo Department of Agriculture (LDA) recommended to the Department of Public Works, as the custodian of the land, that the land be transferred to the farmers who had been in occupation since 1996.
The deeds were registered earlier in 2021 in the names of the farmers who officially became the beneficiaries of the land over the weekend.
The land is currently being used to farm tobacco, cotton and fresh produce. A total of 32 households are supported by the land, with farming activities providing employment to 128 permanent workers and about 320 seasonal workers.
President Ramaphosa commended the farmers for their resilience and determination, which is “an inspiration to us all”.
“You have reminded us indeed that nothing is so full of victory as patience, and that where there is unity, there is always victory.
“This land is this community’s most valuable asset, and now it is officially yours. You will now be able to use it as security to secure loans to expand, to secure long-term supply contracts and to form partnerships with bigger commercial farmers,” President Ramaphosa said.
Land reform is about economic development
He noted that land reform is not just in the interests of redress, justice and social cohesion but it is also about economic development.
“Agriculture and the agriculture value chain can and must transform rural economies. Through the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan we are developing the agricultural sector, and making it more inclusive so that it can play an even greater role in driving inclusive growth,” the President said.
He added that the transfer of the state land is part of government’s nationwide process to speed up land reform.
“Our Constitution obliges the state to take reasonable legislative and other measures, within our available resources, to facilitate equitable access to land.
“The release of state-owned land is one of the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture. Last year, we announced that 529 000 hectares of state-owned land would be released for agricultural activities,” President Ramaphosa said.
He acknowledged that land reform process has been beset by many challenges, including among others, the management of farmland leases, as it was highlighted by Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza, during her recent Budget Vote.
The President noted that in recent months, government had to respond to complaints from several black emerging farmers.
“These have revealed the weaknesses in the implementation of our policies, and call for an overhaul of our property management processes. We are listening carefully to what farmers are saying,” the President said.