Patrice Motsepe sets up fund for black farmers

Patrice Motsepe says farming is of immense benefit to the future.
Patrice Motsepe says farming is of immense benefit to the future.

SA's emerging black farmers are set to benefit from a multibillion-rand fund that businessman Patrice Motsepe wants to establish.

The billionaire, who is the African Rainbow Minerals chair, said at the African Farmers Association of SA (Afasa) agribusiness transformation conference in Bloemfontein at the weekend that the fund will focus on assisting those in agriculture, agribusiness and related industries.

"We need black farmers to be part of sustainable, commercially viable and profitable enterprises. When we do that we will build a future for all of our people," he said.

Motsepe described land as a "deeply emotional issue" among South Africans, saying: "You will never be able to take the politics out of the land."

Afasa president Dr Vuyo Mahlati could not immediately be reached for comment.

Agriculture is one of the key sectors of SA's embattled economy. Its contribution to the GDP fell from 4.2% in 1996 to 2.4% in 2018, while its value jumped from R50.5bn to R74.2bn over the same period.

Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza said the government needed to have a strategy for youth and women development in agriculture.

"In addition, we have a responsibility to revitalise restituted land back to production as well as support farmers settled in agricultural state land and those in our communal areas who have acquitted themselves as farmers even where land scarcity remains a challenge."

In apparent contrast to this, the department said last month that it would appeal the North Gauteng High Court ruling in favour of Limpopo cattle farmer David Rakgase.

The ruling compelled the state to sell Rakgase the land he has been leasing from the government for nearly three decades.

Also, in his last ruling as a Constitutional Court judge in August, justice Edwin Cameron, in a separate matter, blasted department officials, saying they failed "to practically manage and expedite land reform measures in accordance with constitutional and statutory promises [and this] has profoundly exacerbated the intensity and bitterness of our national debate about land reform".

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his State of the Nation Address in June, announced that R3.9bn would be allocated to the Land Bank over the medium-term budget period for the benefit of black commercial farmers.

Ramaphosa said at the time that the funding was aimed at expanding agriculture and the agro-processing sector by supporting key value chains and products, developing new markets and reducing our reliance on agricultural imports.

In 2018, the agricultural economy contracted 4.8% year-on-year due to poor summer grains harvest as a result of drier weather conditions.

Yesterday, FNB agriculture information and marketing head Dawie Maree said collaboration between smallholder farmers will enhance sustainability and profitability.

Maree said land expropriation without compensation "is one of the key risks" for the industry. "There is very little that farmers can do to mitigate this. We have to work around it. We consider the new policy on land a risk for agriculture but are not overly concerned at this stage. We do expect more clarity around March next year."

In July, the National Assembly agreed to re-establish a multiparty ad-hoc committee to introduce legislation amending section 25 of the constitution, or the property clause. It is expected to report back by March 31 2020.

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