'take farms for food'

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

The government should ensure food security by expropriating unused land owned by white commercial farmers, an agricultural summit in Stellenbosch was told yesterday.

Fatima Shabodien of the Women on Farms project said that land owned by commercial farmers was "lying fallow" all over the country.

Shabodien said the government should expropriate this land so that farmworkers could use it to grow food.

The Alliance of Land and Agrarian Reform Movements (Alarm) also told the summit that immediate land reform was the only solution to skyrocketing food prices.

The summit was convened by the provincial development council and attended by farmers, farmworkers and government officials.

Shabodien said groups of farmworkers, such as the Rawsonville Women's Cooperative, had asked farmers if they could buy their unused land but that farmers had said no.

The Rawsonville Women's Cooperative has since identified a piece of land they say has not been used for more than 20 years and applied to the Department of Land Affairs to expropriate it.

Chrizelle Kriel of the Department of Land Affairs said she could not comment on the cooperative's application to the government.

A controversial new land expropriation bill is being discussed by the public works portfolio committee.

The Expropriation Bill will make it possible for government to overrule farmers who refuse to sell their land, and will see an end to the government being forced to buy land at market value.

But there is doubt about its constitutionality.