In SA land reform is often a touchy subject. Everyone knows it has to happen and happen quite quickly, but at the same time we would like to avoid a Zimbabwe type situation. Which is why this Sunday Times story of a farm in Limpopo is not a good one:
Situated in Trichardtsdal, neighbouring Hoedspruit and Tzaneen, which is collectively the country’s biggest mango-producing area, the 450ha farm boasted an annual turnover of about R3-million.
But today, La Boheme’s mango orchards, comprising around 50000 trees, are untended and overgrown with dense alien vegetation. The double-storey house, which was to have been converted into an upmarket lodge, has been stripped bare.
Even the government has called the Settlement and Land Acquisition Grant program that this farm purchase was part of as a complete ‘failure’. The ironic thing is that government is looking to force the grant recipients off these farms by merely stripping them of their owners rights, something you thought would be applied to white farmers.
There are a number of problems I think with the SLAG program that this article highlights:
- Too many owners – The farm was sold to 383 new farmers. With the farm having an annual turnover of R3 million each farmer could look forward to making a whopping R7800 a year. And that’s before expenses and tax.
- No farming expertise – The new owners are described as ‘aspirant’ with what seems like no experience in running a commercial farm, including potential hardships. There was a farm manager for a short time but he was fired over arguments about money (And with 383 owners I’m positive there were plenty of arguments).
- No government help – After buying the farms the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs basically wiped it’s hands and walked away. No training, no inspections, no further access to loans and capital.
Any one of those factors can put a farm in a precarious position. Put them all together and you have a recipe for disaster.