The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development embarked on its nationwide public hearings in Tzaneen, Limpopo Province, to discuss the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land (PDAL) Bill. The committee, led by Acting Chairperson Dr. Manketsi Tlhape, engaged with a diverse range of stakeholders, including community members, farmers’ organizations, communal property associations, political organizations, and business owners. The overwhelming sentiment expressed by participants was that the PDAL Bill would effectively address the challenges facing South Africa’s agricultural sector.
The main objective of the PDAL Bill and the subsequent public hearings was to engage with stakeholders directly and solicit their views and inputs on the proposed legislation. Dr. Manketsi Tlhape emphasized that the committee welcomed not only agreements or disagreements with the Bill but also constructive feedback and proposals that would help refine the legislation and ensure its effectiveness.
The core purpose of the PDAL Bill is to preserve and promote the sustainable development of agricultural land for the production of food and other agricultural products, with a primary focus on sustaining and enhancing human life for both current and future generations. Several stakeholders lauded the bill for its emphasis on preserving and sustainably developing agricultural land while demarcating protected agricultural areas to prevent non-agricultural uses, promoting long-term agricultural production.
Key highlights from the public hearings include:
Encouraging Viable Farming Units: The Bill aims to promote and encourage viable farming units, fostering long-term economic, environmental, and social objectives while discouraging land use changes from agricultural to non-agricultural purposes to prevent the fragmentation of agri-ecosystems.
Scarcity of High-Value Agricultural Land: Stakeholders raised concerns about the scarcity of high-value agricultural land and the pressure exerted on it, which makes it increasingly difficult to sustainably produce sufficient food.
Land Use Restrictions: Some stakeholders requested consideration of land use restrictions, highlighting potential limitations on farmers’ ability to sell their land for agricultural development processes.
Zoning and Permits: Concerns were also raised about the possibility of stricter zoning regulations or additional permits for land use changes under the new Bill.
The Need for Title Deeds: Some residents called for changes to the current systems, pointing out that lacking title deeds left them vulnerable to eviction and potential demolition of their hard-earned farmlands.
Dr. Manketsi Tlhape assured participants that the committee would consolidate all oral and written submissions from the public hearings. The next step in the process includes inviting the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development to respond to the submissions as part of promoting public participation.
Following this, the committee will draft a comprehensive report on the PDAL Bill, considering input from all stakeholders, including the department’s response. This report will be submitted to the National Assembly for consideration and subsequently to the National Council of Provinces for further review.
The PDAL Bill, introduced in Parliament on 2 February 2021, seeks to apply the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act of 1970 to all agricultural land in South Africa. Additionally, it aims to provide principles for agricultural land management, evaluation, and classification, as well as the preparation, purpose, and content of provincial agricultural sector plans and the declaration of protected agricultural areas.
The public hearings continue in the Sekhukhune District Municipality today, as the committee aims to ensure widespread public participation and input in this crucial legislation. By addressing the concerns of stakeholders and incorporating their valuable feedback, the PDAL Bill has the potential to make a significant positive impact on South Africa’s agricultural sector, fostering sustainable development and ensuring the preservation of vital agricultural land for future generations.