Land reform hot topic at PE gathering
Uncertainty over government land reform and empowerment policies and the significant challenges being encountered in transforming the agricultural sector were among the hot topics discussed on the first day of the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) summit held in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
A total of 550 delegates packed a conference facility at the Boardwalk Hotel and International Convention Centre.
The biennial CGA summit provides one of the country’s more successful agricultural sectors with the opportunity to gain industry updates and a chance to network.
Covering a wide range of issues and challenges faced by the industry, the summit format included presentations by experts, followed by question and answer sessions.
Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) chief executive Dr John Purchase tackled transformation in agriculture with a specific focus on land reform, land redistribution and black economic empowerment and ownership, commonly referred to as AgriBEE.
Acknowledging that the land issue was contentious, but critical to address, Purchase highlighted announcements made by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti during the recent debate on President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address around a “precolonial audit of land ownership, use and occupation patterns”.
Pointing to Nkwiniti’s further comments that once the audit was completed “a single law be developed to address the issue of land restitution without compensation”, Purchase said the constitution would have to be fundamentally altered to accommodate land restitution without compensation.
He questioned whether the fact that AgriBEE had moved from “intent to transform” to “regulated transformation” represented a rethink by the government.
Purchase went on to outline a number of challenges around new BEE legislation and the implementation thereof.
“We acknowledge that land reform in South Africa is necessary, even though a complex and emotive subject. The question is how do we do it?” he asked.
CGA Citrus Development Company chairman Mono Mashaba outlined a host of challenges facing new black growers which included the reality that agriculture sector transformation … was very complex in relation to the ownership and changes in boardrooms.
Mashaba revealed that Limpopo with 44, closely followed by the Eastern Cape with 36, had the first and second highest number of black growers in the country, where a total of 123 growers were currently farming on a total of 7 320ha of land.
“Transformation of the industry through empowerment of black growers is not going to be easy due to limited resources,” Mashaba said.
“We need a total paradigm shift from growers, government agencies and other stakeholders to succeed.”