23 January 2017
AFASA wants Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to stop harassing and intimidating black farmers
The African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) has received shocking reports from its members accusing the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) of harassment following a debt collection campaign demanding lease fees, as well as legal action threats against farmers in arears.
Numerous complaints from AFASA members farming on government farms, either as leasees or caretakers, have been brought forward to the organisation. The farmers have confirmed receiving messages from a private debt collection company called Trifecta Capital, demanding payment on their leased farms.
Mr Aggrey Mahanjana, AFASA Secretary General, said this has come as a shock as AFASA was promised by the DRDLR Minister, Mr Gugile Nkwinti and Director General, Mr Mdu Shabane, during its congress in October 2016 that the farmer harassment would be stopped. This also comes at the time where farmers have just come out of a devastating drought. “Instead of engaging us, the department has ignored our concerns over government owned farms and has gone ahead to make such demands,” said Mr Mahanjana. “Many farmers remain distraught on government farms. Some are still without proper lease agreements, therefore qualifying as squatters, whilst some are still without post settlement support since being placed on the farms. We have brought this to the department’s attention on numerous occasions as there are still many unresolved issues over government owned farms,” added Mr Mahanjana.
In October last year, during its march to the Union Buildings, AFASA took these issues to the Presidency in a form of a petition consisting of a list of demands. The following are demands listed in the petition concerning land;
- Black farmers demanded an opportunity to hold title deeds to agricultural land, with water rights and adequate energy supply.
- Farmers who acquire land through PLAS and have completed five years in production should have appropriate long term lease agreements with the state by 31 March 2017.
- No later than 31 March 2017, government should afford deserving farmers who have proved themselves progressive on the PLAS farms an opportunity to purchase the farms, with the state having the right of first refusal for the re-purchase of such farms, should the farm wish to sell or the farm is in dire distress.
- Farmers who have signed an offer to purchase with the government, through the PLAS programme must receive a 50% government subsidy on an agreed purchase price.
- Farmers who wish to lease the farms should pay a lease fee equivalent to 5%of profit before tax at the end of each year and after 30 years of lease, the farm must automatically be handed over to the lessee without any further payment, except transfer cost.
- Establish land reform implementing agencies by 31 March 2017 in order to remove red tape in land acquisition and post settlement support.
- By 31 October 2017, a full evaluation of all farms leased out under PLAS should have been conducted to determine their current status, further support that they may require, which must be budgeted for and provided.
- From April 2017, government should set aside an adequate budget for farm acquisition and development per district.
- Government should have first right of refusal of any farm agricultural land that is on the market.
AFASA has since received correspondence from His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma’s office requesting a meeting with its leadership. “The meeting was scheduled to take place during the first week of December last year, but was postponed indefinitely due to the President’s busy schedule at the time,” explained Mr Mahanjana. AFASA still awaits confirmation from the President’s office on the date of this meeting. It therefore comes as a surprise and shock to learn that the department continue to harass and intimidate farmers. President Jacob Zuma recently made statements of radical economic transformation, including land reform. “But the department’s behaviour does not give us any confidence in them leading the radical land reform process. We would like to request the department (DRDLR) to stop harassing the farmers until AFASA has had a meeting with the President where we hope to craft a way forward,” said Mr Mahanjana.
Mr Aggrey Mahanjana
African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA)
Tel: +27 (0)12 492 1383
Cell: +27 (0)82 556 7297