March 18, 2005

Mbeki tells white farmers to commit to land reform

President Thabo Mbeki has affirmed that the seizure of land would not be necessary if white commercial farmers remained committed to land reform and redistribution. Mbeki, speaking at an imbizo with black farmers at Calvinia in Northern Cape, was replying to a complaint from emerging farmers that it was difficult to access agricultural land. They called on him to seize land to meet their needs. Former land affairs department director- general Gilingwe Mayende has explained that last year government had to redistribute 1,87-million hectares of land a year to meet its 2014 target. According to him, the yearly transfer rate at the time was about 350.000ha. According to the department, about 3,5-million hectares of land have been shared out since 1994 through three main processes - redistribution, restitution, which seeks to address land dispossession, and tenure reform, which is designed for farm workers who have had no legal status to the land on which they live, in some cases for generations. Mbeki also told the meeting in Calvinia that his government had allocated R1bn to support emerging commercial agriculture farmers. In his budget speech in February, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel announced a microfinance scheme for emerging farmers and beneficiaries of land reform. According to him, R600m would be allocated to the scheme over the next five years. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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