12/02/2017 11:41 SAST | Updated 12/02/2017 12:36 SAST

R97-million Limpopo Farm Went To ANC Friends

No, this wasn't a proper land reform deal.

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti
Gallo Images/Foto24/Werner Hills
Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti helped an ANC comrade take over a R97- million farm in Limpopo, which then fell into ruin, reported the Sunday Times. The minister denied wrongdoing to the newspaper.

"Bekendvlei Farm was bought for R97-million and handed over to Errol Velile Present, who had been working at Luthuli House for more than 10 years, and his partner, businessman Moses Boshomane, to manage," reported the newspaper on Sunday.

"The senior department official had prioritised the deal by bypassing required procedures. A day after the deal went through."

Nkwinti was the speaker at Present's lavish wedding.

"Neither Present nor Boshomane had an ancestral claim to the farm. They also had no experience in agriculture."

The newspaper said the farm was bought by Nkwinti's department, although it was not subject to a land claim, and handed over to Present and Boshomane to manage. Although the department spent another R30-million on running costs, the farmworkers were not paid for five months and the farm became run down.

"About 3 000 cattle, worth almost R18-million, were sold off, machinery disappeared and crops died," said the newspaper. Nkwinti eventually evicted the men in March last year. The minister's involvement was exposed in a forensic investigation by auditors Deloitte, with a draft report in May last year recommending that Nkwinti be charged with corruption, but the final report in November does not mention Nkwinti or recommend any action against him.

The department's deputy director-general, Vusi Mahlangu, was fired over the matter and the department's director-general was suspended, said the newspaper.

Nkwinti confirmed to the newspaper that he knew Present but denied any wrongdoing.

Last week in his annual State of the Nation Address (Sona), President Jacob Zuma emphasised the need for land reform, with only 8 million hectares of arable land (10% of the total) transferred to black people.

This was what the president said about land reform in the Sona:

It will be difficult if not impossible, to achieve true reconciliation until the land question is resolved.

Only eight million hectares of arable land have been transferred to black people, which is only 9.8 percent of the 82 million hectares of arable land in South Africa.

There has also been a 19 percent decline in households involved in agriculture from 2,9 million in 2011 to 2,3 million households in 2016.

We had stated our intention of using the Expropriation Act to pursue land reform and land redistribution, in line with the Constitution. I have now decided to refer the Bill back to Parliament for reconsideration on the basis that the Bill might not pass constitutional master. This is due to inadequate public participation during its processing.

We trust that Parliament will be able to move with speed in meeting the requirements so that the law can be finalised to effect transformation.

The reopening of land claims is also still on hold because the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act, 2014 was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Court found that the public consultation process facilitated by the National Council of Provinces and some Provincial Legislatures, did not meet the standard set in the Constitution.

Going forward, government will continue to implement other programmes such as the Strengthening of Relatives Rights programme, also known as the 50-50 programme.

In this programme, the farm workers join together into a legal entity and together with the farm owner a new company is established and the workers and the owner become joint owners.

To date 13 proposals have already been approved benefiting 921 farm dweller households at a value of R631 million. We applaud farmers and farm workers for this innovation.

Most importantly, we appeal to land claimants to accept land instead of financial compensation. Over 90 percent of claims are currently settled through financial compensation which does not help the process at all. It perpetuates dispossession. It also undermines economic empowerment.

Government has committed itself to support black smallholder farmers.

I received a memorandum from the African Farmers Association of South Africa who say the year 2017 must be the year of the commercialisation of the black small holder farmers.

Indeed, Government will implement a commercialisation support programme for 450 black smallholder farmers.

We encourage more women to consider farming. I have as a special guest today, the 2016 Female Farmer of the Year, Ms Vanecia Janse from Koukamma municipality in the Eastern Cape.

-- President Jacob Zuma, State of the Nation Address, February 9, 2017