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Boost for black commercial farmers

Written by Albert Pule
From plans to build a multi-million rand training centre to the re-opening of land claims, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s first five months of the new administration has been characterised by hard work.

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti.President Jacob Zuma signed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act in June, which re-opened the restitution claim process, giving claimants five years, up until 2019, to lodge land claims.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said the department consultated widely before re-opening of the land claims initiative.

The first period for lodgement was opened from 1994 to1998.

“Although land claims were made and settled, a great number of people complained that they had not been aware of the process at the time and as such they had missed the initial lodgement window,” the Minister explained.

After the process was re-opened by the end of July this year, a total of 5 495 claims had been received at various lodgement sites across the country. The majority of these have been lodged in the Western Cape with 1 363 claims, followed by 956 claims in Gauteng.

Chief Land Claims Commissioner Nomfundo Gobodo said: “We have noted that the majority of those who have lodged claims since the re-opening of the lodgement of land claims have opted for financial compensation.”

She encouraged claimants choose land restoration instead of money, where possible, because it would address the important issue of land ownership patterns in South Africa.

The department is planning to send mobile offices to rural areas across the country to enable every qualifying citizen an opportunity to lodge their claims. The department will target mostly elderly people and areas where transport is a problem.

Multi-purpose centre

The department, in partnership with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), unveiled plans to build a R60 million multi-purpose training and development centre that will give up-and-coming black commercial farmers a boost.

“With this new multi-million rand facility, our objective will be to rekindle that class of commercial farmers destroyed by the Native Land Act,” the Minister explained.

ARC CEO Dr Shadrack Moephuli said the centre, which is in Roodeplaat north of Pretoria, will also help his institution to develop farmers who can respond to the needs of customers.

“We will provide them with the training so that they can be productive themselves, understand the use of technology, how to respond to the needs of consumers, but also how to ensure to identify the diseases at their respective farms and solve the problems on their own,” he said