The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the honesty by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) regarding the challenges in the State land lease program.
The Department informed the portfolio committee members during a briefing last night, that they do not have the capacity to manage the leases of all the land currently registered in the name of the State. This after the department advertised 700 000 ha of State land that will be leased to interested farmers, for which 37 000 applications have been received.
The publication of the list of land that would be available for leases caused many farmers to panic, as they saw land that they were already farming on, on these lists.
According to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, the list consists of farms with no valid current leases and DALRRD plans to use it to regularize land use on all the farms. Most of the farmers on State land's lease agreements have not been renewed since 2016.
DALRRD further stated that they are looking at offering freehold to those farmers who have been on the land for a long period. The DA welcomes this proposal and would urge the Department to finalise the terms and conditions for such a proposal as soon as possible.
While the DA has been contacted by many farmers who have received letters to vacate the land, the Department reiterated again that no farmers will be "chased of the land" and that the validation process of farmers on State land is ongoing. The DA will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure that this is indeed the case. We will not allow successful farmers to be stripped of their land without a fight.
Farming is already an incredibly stressful vocation and the State land release program must not be and extra burden to bear. As it stands, DALRRD is often the cause of worry and hindrance for farmers.
The agricultural sector must be included in these plans in order to ensure workable solutions are found. The release of State land is a step in the right direction, but it cannot be handled by the State alone.
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