Land restitution blamed for job losses

Alex Matlala

Alex Matlala

Farmers in the Ofcolaco area near Tzaneen in Limpopo have blamed the "snail paced" land restitution process for the loss of more than 2000 jobs in the agricultural industry.

The farm owners complained that the delays hampered their plans to develop their farms, leaving them with no option but to dismiss their workers.

Farmer Arne Vorster, whose farm, Harmony, falls on the land claimed by the community, said he had to fire at least 100 farmworkers to cut costs.

Vorster said that he had to fire the farmworkers because no conclusion had been reached on the claim.

"This means I cannot make improvements on the farm because the government will not reimburse me for the improvements," Vorster said.

"As a result, my plans to plant mango trees, upgrade boreholes and remove unwanted plants had to be put on hold.

"That is the reason why some of the workers have nothing to do, resulting in them being dismissed," he said.

But the provincial land claims commissioner, Mashile Mokono, said farmers were using land claims as a plot to dismiss farmworkers.

Mokono said the farmers were responsible for delaying the process by going to court every time there was a land claim.

He said the land restitution process in the province was on track and he believed the commission would meet the deadline on land restitution.

President Thabo Mbeki had initially announced that the deadline for land restitution was the end of this year, but had to extend it to the end of next year because of the hiccups in the programme throughout the country.