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Black South African farmer urges parliament to drop land seizure plans

Black South African farmer urges parliament to drop land seizure plans
Confiscating lands from white farmers for redistribution among the country’s black majority won’t produce the desired result, as it won’t give black farmers access to commercial markets, a black farmer warns.

Ramodisa Monaisa spoke at parliamentary hearings on land reform to urge the government not to amend the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation. “You will give us land and you will render us useless,” said Monaisa, as quoted by a South African weekly newspaper The Mail & Guardian.

Monaisa has been cultivating the land owned by the department of rural development for 15 years and says he knows what it means to be a black farmer in South Africa. The government body made it possible for Monaisa to start his farming business, but he is reportedly able to employ just one person on his farm.

Not having enough money, the farmer failed to make much progress with commercial farming, losing out to agricultural businesses bolstered by financial support from South African lenders.

“I’ve tried commercial banks but, because of my credit score, it is so difficult to get a loan, and the Land Bank uses the same scale,” Monaisa said. “The biggest problem is, as black farmers, we have become unable to perform. As if we cannot work. If we can get funding like commercial white farmers, we can do it.”

Monaisa’s submission was made as a beneficiary of Grain SA, a voluntary and non-profit organization for grain farmers. The organization provides skills and financial support when possible to the country’s grain producers.

The submission reportedly attracted the attention of South African lawmakers, as Monaisa pleaded with the parliament to leave section 25 of the constitution unchanged. He stressed that, without financial support, black farmers can do nothing with the land they might get if the controversial land reform is implemented the way it is planned.

Owning of the land alone cannot keep black farmers afloat, according to Grain SA Chief Executive Jannie de Villiers, who said that small black farming enterprises need to cooperate with commercial farmers.

“Land alone will not restore the dignity of those that were negatively affected by the previous dispensation,” De Villiers said. “Partnerships and joint ventures with current commercials farmers are also key to gain quick ground in this regard.”

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Review Committee in parliament began four days of hearing oral submissions from institutions on whether section 25 of the constitution should be amended. The change in the law would allow confiscation of land from white farmers without compensation.

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