NEWS
28/02/2018 17:01 SAST | Updated 01/03/2018 04:57 SAST

Black Farmers' Struggle For Land Is Just The Beginning

"The deposit that is required it is too high, and the land is expensive. The queues for government [aid] are too long."

Gallo Images / Sowetan / Antonio Muchave

Maseli Letuka is a successful farmer growing maize, soya and wheat, as well as breeding cattle. He says it was a tough journey.

The Free State farmer left his full-time job as a teacher in 1998 to pursue his burning passion for agriculture, but says his biggest hurdle was acquiring land; to this day, he still rents the land on which he farms.

"The deposit that is required it is too high, and the land is expensive. The queues for government [aid] are too long," he told HuffPost on Wednesday.

Letuka says the conditions attached to loans taken out through the Land Bank make it almost impossible for an ordinary South African to buy arable farmland.

"You need an upfront deposit of 10 percent. Five hundred hectares of land [costs] about R10-million. They need the cash upfront."

He says the barrier to entry for many black people is their scarce resources.

"We do not have the financial resources; there is nothing we can do. Now you want to buy a machine – once again you need a hard-cash deposit. You go to the bank, and they say you need collateral. We do not have hard cash," he said.

"I have not done anything else but develop myself to become a successful commercial farmer... This is a journey I am excited to have embarked on."
– Gift Nafuleka

Bronkhospruit grain farmer Gift Nafuleka says he was able to buy land with the assistance of government.

"I approached government, and then I was interviewed. I was allocated the land in 2009," he said.

He also complains about the strain that many black farmers have to go through to find land.

"We lack resources, knowledge, experience and skill," said Nafuleka.

"The journey has not been easy for me, but that journey did not start when I got the farm – it started when I got inspired at the age of eight... There have been ample challenges and ample benefits," he said.

His grandparents were subsistence farmers, and all he ever wanted was to follow in their footsteps.

That is why Nafuleka studied agriculture at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).

"I have not done anything else but develop myself to become a successful commercial farmer... This is a journey I am excited to have embarked on," he said.

Mfokazala Mbele owns 200 hectares, which he says is not enough, so he has to lease an additional 120 hectares.

"[Land] was so cheap back then," he said.

Supplied
Mfokazala Mbele

Mbele got his capital to buy land from his pension fund after he resigned from his teaching post. He was then identified as one of the best breeders in his region and was subsequently awarded additional cattle by Free State's provincial agriculture department in 2009.

He says there are a lot of black people interested in agriculture, but adds that the "bank and government are very slow".

"That is why we have a bigger number of failures – it is because of the lack of support," he said.