The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development recently held public hearings on the Development of Agriculture Land (PDAL) Bill at the Lonely Park Multipurpose Centre in Mahikeng, where concerns were raised about the decline of agricultural production in the North West’s Ngaka Modiri District. Participants highlighted the mismanagement of land by Communal Property Associations (CPAs) as a significant factor contributing to this decline. This article examines the issues faced by farmers, the role of traditional leaders, and the government’s response to address these challenges.
Farmers’ Pleas for Improved Governance and Land Management:
During the public hearings, farmers voiced their concerns over the mismanagement of land by CPAs, which has resulted in a significant decrease in agricultural productivity in the Ngaka Modiri District. Many farmers believed that had the issue of CPAs been dealt with diligently, the agricultural sector, including crop and animal farming, could have flourished and reached new heights.
Participants expressed a desire for the PDAL Bill to have been introduced back in 1994 when governance in their district was at a more acceptable level. They urged the committee to play a vital role in overseeing the implementation of the Bill by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development.
Challenges Faced by Farmers and the Role of the Department of Agriculture:
Farmers presented several challenges they face in their daily operations. Among these challenges are stock theft, unavailability of grazing land for livestock, and the lack of veterinary officers for their animals. Additionally, some farmers reported using risky indigenous methods to treat their livestock due to a lack of appropriate veterinary assistance.
The farmers further alleged that the Department of Agriculture has been providing assistance to individuals outside the agricultural sector, which has hindered the food production capacity of the region.
Traditional Leaders’ Standoff with the Government:
A representative of the House of Traditional Leaders raised concerns about the government’s handling of prime agricultural land, with 87% currently owned by a minority. In 2017, traditional leaders requested the government to transfer the remaining 13% to tribal authorities.
The representative also brought up the issue of the willing buyer – willing seller principle, which the traditional leaders deemed inefficient and costly in land redistribution. They advocated for its elimination to expedite land restitution.
Furthermore, traditional leaders inquired about the Lamosa Judgement, which halted the restitution of land and demanded that all land restitution backlogs be cleared. They emphasized that many communities had not claimed their land by the cut-off date of 1998.
Reservations about the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA):
Traditional leaders also expressed reservations about the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act of 2013 (SPLUMA) and have made a formal submission to address their concerns regarding the legislation.
In response to the concerns raised during the public hearings, a senior official from the North West Department of Agriculture was asked to provide answers. However, the official deferred the response to a later date, promising to address the issues in writing. The official highlighted the presence of Farmer Production Support Units in each district of the province, responsible for assisting farmers with their needs.
The public hearings on the PDAL Bill shed light on the critical issues affecting agricultural production in the North West’s Ngaka Modiri District. Mismanagement of land by Communal Property Associations, lack of necessary support for farmers, and the standoff between traditional leaders and the government are among the pressing challenges that need to be addressed promptly. The engagement of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development, under the leadership of Chairperson Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, signifies a commitment to finding a solution that reflects the views of all South Africans and fosters sustainable agricultural growth and development.