This emerged during a media roundtable discussion on “Partnerships for Land Reform” in Johannesburg organised by Vumelana, a non-profit organisation which helps communities in the land reform programme to develop their land. Taking part in the discussion were the country’s Chief Land Claims Commissioner Nomfundo Ntloko-Gobodo, South African Sugar Association (SASA) Land Reform and Rural Development General Manager Anwhar Madhanpall, AgriSA Legal Adviser Annelize Crosby, Vumelana Advisory Fund Programme Manager Mazwi Mkhulisi and Moletele Communal Property Association Chairperson Hezekiel Nkosi. The discussion was facilitated by award-winning financial journalist Siki Mgabadeli.
Ntloko-Gobodo stressed the importance of the private sector working together with government to advance the agenda of land reform. “Land reform is the responsibility of all of us as South Africans, therefore each sector has to identify its niche and expertise and bring those skills to the table for sustainability of all land reform projects to contribute towards meaningful transformation of our country,” said Ntloko-Gobodo. She added: “We want partners who will be in the relationship for the long run, because land reform is not going to be a project that ends in 2030, or just a quick fix. It is going to be around for a very long time and will continue to affect the next generation into the future.”
Vumelana CEO Peter Setou also emphasised the significance of collaborative efforts in achieving sustainable land reform. “We have the right plans in place, we have the right policies in place, but not all stakeholders have come to the party to ensure that these policies and plans are taken to the ground to achieve the desired results. With under 13 years to go until 2030, a more aggressive approach to partnerships must be taken to help government to effectively implement current land reform policies, all parties must come on board, private sector, government and non-governmental organisations alike,” said Setou.
The industry’s willingness to work with government and proactive approach to land reform has led to its land transfer figures higher than the national average – the industry’s land transfer stands at 22.3% since the advent of democracy in 1994.
The sugar industry has always been committed to working together with government to advance land reform and currently has a number of programmes in place to support and ensure sustainable land reform. The industry’s willingness to work with government and proactive approach to land reform has led to its land transfer figures higher than the national average – the industry’s land transfer stands at 22.3% since the advent of democracy in 1994. Research shows that to date, only 8 036 000 hectares of arable land have been transferred to black people, which represents only 9.8% (national average) of the 82 million hectares of arable land in South Africa.
In his opening remarks, Madhanpall gave the historical context of the country’s land issue and the need for redress. He went on to explain the industry’s handling of the emotive issue of land reform. “The sugar industry had long acknowledged the importance of land reform for the future security of South Africa and the sustainability of the sector. On these grounds the sugar industry, it embraced the government’s policy of land reform and decided to avail its resources towards the acceleration of land reform without undermining the vital role played by the sector in the overall economy of the country.”
The sugar industry put mechanisms and programmes in place to support government’s plans aimed at ensuring successful land reform. The industry’s efforts are in line with the National Development Plan and governing party’s “Economic Transformation” discussion document for the ANC national policy conference which is set to take place in June and July this year.
Madhanpall outlined some programmes which have seen the industry – with direct employment of 85 000, indirect employment of 350 000 and one million people dependent on it for a living – at the forefront of land reform:
According to Madhanpall, the sugar industry developed and implemented its own redistribution model prior to the inception of the land reform programme. In the early 1990s, Tongaat Hulett and Illovo Sugar, using their own land (Miller cum Planter, redistributed 18 789 hectares to 170 growers using a loan financing model with Ithala Bank. Ushukela Milling transferred 7 276 hectares of their land to restitution claimants. RCL foods in Mpumalanga also sold approximately 8778 hectares of high potential Miller cum Planter land to three communities through the restitution programme. These initiatives reduced miller ownership of land from 22% in the late 1990s to 6% in 2010. Further evidence of these efforts is that freehold land under sugarcane under black ownership has increased from 5% in 1994 to 22,3 % currently, or more than 76 034 hectares under cane farmed by land reform beneficiaries.
There is a coordinated and structured multi-faceted approach to education, training and skills development supported by the industry. The industry is committed to ensuring that new claimant communities and land redistribution growers are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to participate in industry structures and sugarcane businesses.