Black farmers marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria yesterday to protest against the slow pace of land reform and demand better support for emergent farmers.
“We are indigenous but we do not have land. Foreigners are our landlords” was on one of the placards waved by about 300 black farmers yesterday.
The African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) and Nerpo (National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation) say land reform is a ticking time bomb – adding that that is no exaggeration.
Neither President Jacob Zuma nor his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, were available to receive the memorandum, which the farmers handed over to his office. But they warned should Zuma not call them directly within 24 hours to confirm he had received the memorandum, they would be back.
In the memorandum, the farmers are asking government for comprehensive support to enable them to own and manage viable agricultural businesses. They point out that 22 years into democracy in the country many black farmers still operate on the periphery of the mainstream agricultural industry without real opportunities to develop feasible businesses.
The farmers are also concerned that since 1994 the government has spent over R40 billion through various programmes meant for emerging farmer support, yet there is not much to show for it.
The group of farmers said that what is needed now is comprehensive support enabling black farmers to own land or have the security of long-term tenure so they can produce goods that are competitive in mainstream markets.
“Farmers want to be able to pay themselves a decent wage, afford to pay their workers minimum wages that are consistent with the labour laws and be self-sustaining beyond government grants,” they said.
Their proposals include:
- A key target should be to fully develop and support 50 black commercial farmers per province per year for the next 10 years, until each of them is viable.
- To strengthen the collective voice of the smallholder farmer at various levels, including at government level.
- That they have title deeds for land, water rights and adequate energy supply by March 31, 2017.
- A comprehensive register of all farmers by December 2017.
- Skills development and access to information by April 2018.
- Financial support by December 2017.
- A favourable investment climate.
- Regular monitoring and evaluation of the progress of black farmers.
- That 2017 be declared as the year of commercialisation for black farmers with clear targets for growth in the sector.