In a significant show of support for the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land (PDAL) Bill, residents of Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District participated in public hearings conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development at the Mmabana Arts Culture and Sport Foundation in Taung, North West province. The Bill, designed to promote the preservation and sustainable development of agricultural land, garnered widespread support from various stakeholders. However, concerns were raised regarding the establishment and role of an advisory committee, as well as the potential implications on land expropriation and historical land access.
The PDAL Bill and Chapter 4
The PDAL Bill, aimed at preserving and developing agricultural land for productive purposes in the long term, found favor among residents who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Chapter 4 of the Bill outlines the possibility of the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development establishing an advisory committee. This committee’s primary function would be to provide expert advice to the Minister on achieving the objectives of the Act and matters related to agricultural land’s preservation and sustainable development.
Concerns Over the Advisory Committee
Despite supporting the PDAL Bill’s core principles, participants raised concerns about the advisory committee’s implementation. One key issue highlighted by residents was the ambiguity surrounding the grounds for the Minister’s decision to establish such a committee. The Bill did not specify the circumstances or triggers that would prompt the Minister to form the committee, nor did it outline the conditions under which a request for advisory services could be made. Participants argued that expert advice on agricultural land use is crucial and, therefore, the establishment of the advisory committee should be mandatory, rather than discretionary.
Scope of the Advisory Committee
Residents suggested that the advisory committee should have a clearly defined scope. They emphasized the need for the committee to promote the appropriate use of agricultural land, even at the provincial level. This inclusion would ensure that the committee’s advice aligns with the intended purposes of land use and development, fostering sustainable agricultural practices.
Expropriation and Access to Land
Among the concerns raised was whether the PDAL Bill was intended to protect current landowners from potential expropriation of land without compensation. Participants hoped that the Bill’s primary objective was not to shield landowners but rather to facilitate fair land expropriation practices. Additionally, residents expressed the desire for the Bill to ensure historically disadvantaged individuals have access to land. This inclusion would help rectify historical imbalances and empower marginalized communities in the agricultural sector.
Support from Farmers and Traditional Leaders
The PDAL Bill received significant backing from the farming community, with the Chairperson of the farmers’ association in the rural areas of Taung and the Vice President of Agri North West expressing full support. These stakeholders believed that preserving land for productive agricultural purposes was essential for the region’s economic stability, given that the majority of residents rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.
Traditional leaders in the district also voiced their support for the Bill, seizing the opportunity to advocate for an amendment related to water regulation. They stressed the importance of ensuring access to water for the people in the area, noting that water regulation and the PDAL Bill should complement each other to address crucial agricultural concerns effectively.
Acting Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development, Ms. Busisiwe Tshwete, hailed the public hearings as fruitful, informative, and critical in addressing key issues raised by the participants. She assured the residents that the committee would take all submissions into consideration when formulating the final report on the Bill. Ms. Tshwete confirmed that the committee would continue conducting public hearings across provinces to capture various viewpoints from South Africans.
The public hearings held at the Mmabana Arts Culture and Sport Foundation in Taung witnessed widespread support for the PDAL Bill from the residents of Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District. While the Bill’s core objectives were well-received, concerns about the advisory committee’s establishment and scope, as well as the potential implications on land expropriation and historical land access, were raised. The committee, led by Ms. Busisiwe Tshwete, will carefully consider all submissions and prepare a comprehensive report for submission to the National Assembly, reflecting the public’s views and suggestions. The PDAL Bill’s ultimate impact on preserving and developing agricultural land will depend on the careful consideration and collaboration of all stakeholders involved.