IN FULL | 'Trust us': What David Mabuza told farmers at the AgriSA land summit
Deputy President David Mabuza assured farmers they would be supported at a land summit at Zwartkloof Game Reserve in Limpopo.
The two-day land summit was organised by farming publication Landbou Weekblad and agricultural union AgriSA. At the summit, Mabuza said government’s land-reform policy was about land redistribution and dealing with the past‚ but it would not stop food production.
He also said the government would “avoid something that could collapse the economy”.
Read his full, unedited remarks below:
Thank you for inviting me to this important gathering. This is important summit that promises to offer practical solutions towards moving the country in the right direction as we respond to challenges of economic growth and job creation. It takes place at a time of great economic challenges facing our country. These challenges include sluggish economic growth leading to slow employment opportunities and, in some sectors, job losses that add further pressure to the challenge of poverty and inequality in our country. It also takes place at a critical stage of discussions on land reform measures that seek to address inequalities of the past flowing from land dispossession and economic exclusion.
The current debate that is dominating our national discourse is about land expropriation without compensation. There is no issue that has caused so much strong sentiments on both divides than the question of land. The ANC resolved at its 54th National Conference in Nasrec that expropriation of land without compensation must be effected. In this regard, the National Assembly passed a motion to this effect and put into motion the process of public consultations to solicit the views of South Africans on this matter.
It is reported that since 1994, there have never been such high levels of participation and submissions on any matter or piece of legislation than the land expropriation without compensation has generated.
Land has always been a sensitive matter, and it is at the heart of ordinary people’s daily struggles for economic participation and social empowerment. Access to land for productive use in agriculture, industrial development and human settlements remains a defining feature for the aspirations of those with no access to land. There are many voices crying for access to land to improve the living conditions and open up opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.
As we all agree, access to land improves prospects for our ability to improve the quality of lives of many South Africans in urban and far-flung rural areas under the jurisdiction of traditional leaders. Access to land is not for the sake of access with no clear purpose. It is about ensuring that land is made available to people who want to ‘work the land’, and put it to productive use so that the productive capacity of the country is maximized.
Our historic mission as the ANC-led government is the strategic objective of creating a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa in all its manifestations. As the leadership of the ANC and government, we are clear that the implementation of land reform measures must not result in social fractures and racial polarization. The land reform processes that we are undertaking pose no direct threat to the agriculture sector and the economy as a whole.
Our farmers must continue to work hard, invest in their farms and increase production while extending a hand of collaboration with government to ensure that more and more South Africans enter the sector through organized and systematic access to land for productive use. Everything we do will be done within the confines of our constitutional framework. As the ANC, we will not support ‘land grab’ processes intended to undermine the economy and the work of the agriculture sector.
We would like to discourage those who are using this sensitive and emotive issue of land to divide us as South Africans by distorting our land reform measures to the international community, and spreading falsehoods that our ‘white farmers’ are facing the onslaught from their own government. This is far from the truth. We will do our best to safeguard the estimated R460 billion worth of investment in agricultural assets so that we leverage this for increased investment in the sector.
We are resolute in protecting the sector to prevent any contraction and threat to food security. Farmers must continue to produce without any fear as land reform is not about destroying production. Instead, it is about expanding new horizons and possibilities to double our production capacity, especially where land has already been restituted and redistributed.
It is about expanding access to land and ensuring that every piece of land is productive, including communal land. As government, we will prioritize investment in agriculture infrastructure to scale up production and continue to sustain our position as one of most food secure countries on the continent and the globe. We will work closely with the agriculture sector in developing and implementing a package of post-settlement support measures to enhance productivity of restituted land as well as communal land under the custodianship of traditional leaders. As commercial farmers, you have requisite expertise that can be put to good use in the sector and cross-shared with the emerging and aspiring farmers.
Many of the farmers in this room are already involved in supporting successful models to support the development of commercial Black farmers of the future. To these patriots, we say thank you. Your country needs you to grow this sector by imparting your skills to the next generations of commercial farmers. As we meet to deliberate and produce solutions that are envisaged, we must ensure that we work together to develop and share new models for land reform and agrarian transformation. We need shared solutions to our problems. We invite all farmers and the agriculture sector as a whole to be part of the solution.
We are here today because as the ANC leadership we value commercial agriculture as a backbone of our economy and food security. Together we can do this. We are a nation that is capable of resolving its own challenges. We proved that through our negotiated settlement that led to a democratic South Africa. Out of that, we produced a constitution that guarantees rights and freedoms of all South Africans. It is this Constitution that governs how we manage our affairs as a people.
That is why for the past 24 years, our government has sought to address land reform through a myriad of legislative processes in accordance with the provisions of our Constitution. However, there is an acknowledgement that the progress we have made on land reform has not been at a desired speed.
Similarly, there is an acknowledgement that where land restitution has been effected, not all of that land has been put to productive use. These are facts that exist against a background of poverty, high unemployment and growing inequality. These challenges are prevailing notwithstanding all achievements we have made since 1994. The path we are on is not sustainable. As the ANC-led government, we carry on our shoulders, a heavy burden of delivering with speed on the aspirations of our people. Failure to meaningfully resolve the land question can easily lead to instability and unintended consequences.
Therefore, collectively as government and the agriculture sector, we have no choice but to approach this matter with an appreciation that we are in this together. We must engage in discussions and rigorous debates to refine our best options to resolve our problems.At the end, we need to come up with solutions that will bring redress and take our country forward.
For us as government, we have established an Inter-Ministerial Committee of Land Reform whose task is to provide political oversight on work being undertaken with regards to the implementation of land reform and related anti-poverty interventions on land and agrarian reforms.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee will be advised by the Panel of Experts to be appointed by the President to advise on the how best the processes of land expropriation should be managed. Every piece of advice will be considered to guide the implementation of programmes around land expropriation. We will ensure that as farmers you will also take an active role in the unfolding work done under the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform. More importantly, the agriculture sector will have three representatives in the panel of experts.
This panel will assist in providing a unified perspective on expropriation of land. The Presidency will formalize the cooperation with the sector to allow for a more structured working relationship with government. Our approach to land reform will be based on three elements, namely, increased security of tenure, land restitution and land redistribution.
We are clear as the ANC and as government that all of this must not undermine the productive use of the land. As we begin this work, our immediate focus is on government owned land. We have begun to audit all land parcels owned by government across all spheres, including land owned by state owned enterprises. Government will prioritise land under the ownership of the state, including unused and under-utilized state land and ensure that this land is redistributed and put to productive use.
In the main this land will targeted for agricultural production, industrial, human settlements as well as economic and industrial development. We also have agricultural land that has absentee farmers and is lying fallow. Such land will be transferred to the people who will put it to productive use.
As we continue with our work, we will also broaden participation and collaboration with other economic sectors that impact on agriculture and the entire value chain. One of these key sectors is mining. To address the competing interests between agriculture and mining, I have already started a process of engagement with the mining houses to make sure that land owned by mines which is no longer available for mining, is rehabilitated for agricultural use.
Government will work with the agriculture sector in this regard to ensure that this land is properly rehabilitated and put to productive use. We are looking forward to the solutions that will emerge as outcomes of this summit. The solutions and recommendations generated here will be shared for consideration by Cabinet and the ANC leadership.
We must recognize that the process we are engaging in will be tough and at times will be highly emotive. Let us take the first step together in this long journey of thousand miles. Even as we implement policy reforms that respond to our domestic challenges and realities, there will be those who will seek to exploit the sentiments for their own selfish ends. That is why we must come with solutions that are practical and innovative. They must respond to how we balance domestic imperatives of transformation and building a growing economy.
Of course, we will do this within a constrained environment and sometimes antagonistic posture of financial market forces that invariably seek to limit political and policy decisions by government. Any failure to work together, will be costly in our efforts to build a united and prosperous nation. It would create a perception that we are not serious in achieving equitable distribution of economic benefits to all our people. We must be bold in responding to the reality of our economic situation and not be afraid to implement those policies that would bring better economic opportunities for all South Africans.
Change will not happen by accident, but through conscious and deliberate action to meet the aspirations of all South Africans. We can wait no longer for time is gradually going against us. Once more, thank you for this invitation and we wish you fruitful deliberations that produce concrete solutions.