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Farmers could lose half of their land to employees

If a new government land restitution plan comes to fruition, commercial farmers could be forced to hand over 50% ownership of their land to their employees. And, to add insult to injury, the farmers will not be paid for the property they would lose. These “Final suggestions for the enhancement of the relative rights of people who work the earth” proposals have been submitted to parliament and are being considered.

Of course, land is an extremely controversial issue in SA and these proposals have been extensively reported on in the national media – as well as by the well-known civil rights organisation AfriForum – and have caused an outcry throughout the country’s agricultural sector. The “broad strokes” of the proposed legislation entail that the land-owner would retain 50% ownership, while 50% must go to workers with 50 years’ employment on that particular farm, 25% would have to go to workers with 25 years, 15% to go to “living costs” of households including workers with less than 10 years employment and 10% would go to workers who had at least 10 years continuous employment on the farm.
These and other measures have been met with dismay – with both farmers and agricultural experts warning that the proposals are “patently unworkable and would lead to a decrease in food production and an escalation in rural unemployment”. The feeling is that, whilst it is generally accepted that farm workers needed to be uplifted, the farmer was still the one with the most farming knowledge and experience in the overall running of any commercial farming venture. One wag has commented: “If the average farm worker was capable enough to successfully run a commercial farming venture and turn a profit – he wouldn’t be a farm worker, he’d be a farmer in his own right.”

Apart from the “elephant in the room” in that the affected land-owner would not receive any compensation for their loss (try getting your average farmer to sit still for that one), several sources have indicated that, at the very least, the proposals needed further discussion involving all stakeholders – not just the “powers that be” in the relevant government departments.

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