Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development minister Thoko Didiza has announced plans to distribute agricultural state land as part of the government’s land reform programme.
In a press briefing on Thursday (1 October), Didiza said that over the next two weeks, the government will issue advertisement notices for over 500,000 hectares of underutilised or vacant state land in the following provinces:
- Eastern Cape – 43,000 ha;
- Free State – 8,333 ha;
- KwaZulu-Natal – 3,684 ha;
- Limpopo – 121,567 ha;
- Mpumalanga – 40,206 ha;
- Northern Cape – 12,224 ha;
- North West – 300,000 ha.
Gauteng and Western Cape have no land to be advertised, Didiza said. “The advertisement notices will be in the local, district and provincial newspapers, websites and local radio stations,” she said.
“Application forms will be made available in the district offices and provincial offices of the Departments of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development as well as Municipal District offices.”
The advert will run from 15 October – 15 November – a full calendar month. This 30 day period is to ensure that people have enough time to make their applications.
The main eligibility criteria include:
- The applicant must be a South African citizen;
- The applicant must be 18 years or older;
- Priority within the target group will be given to women, youth and people with disabilities;
- Applicants must indicate their current farming area;
- A successful applicant must operate the land for the duration of the lease contract. They must also demonstrate a basic capacity to work the land;
- Bias will be shown to people who have farming experience of at least three to five years.
The adjudication and selection process
After the closing date, all applications received will be compiled and captured in a database per district in each province.
- The District Beneficiary Screening Committee (DBSC) will screen the application, interview against the criteria as set out in the advertisement notice and make recommendations to the Provincial Technical Committee (PTC) for consideration;
- The Provincial Technical Committee (PTC) will evaluate and review the District Committee (DBSC)’s recommendations and submit to the national department for approval;
- The National Selection and Approval Committee (NSAC) will consider all recommendations and approve suitable applications;
- Both the successful and unsuccessful applicants will be informed of the outcome in writing.
Didiza said that unsuccessful applicants will have an opportunity to register their appeals to the Land Allocation Appeals Committee.
“A land inquiry process will be on-going on state land that is already occupied without formal approval from the department,” she said.
“Such enquiry will assess farms that have been acquired through the Pro-Active Land Acquisition (PLAS) programme. The land enquiry will investigate and determine how individuals and communities that are currently occupying the land got access to it.”
Didiza said that the enquiry will also look at how the land is currently being utilised and whether such use is in accordance with the agricultural practices for the area.
” Where such land has been used for settlement, an assessment will be done, together with the departments of human settlement and water affairs, environmental, forestry and fisheries,” she said.
“Based on the outcome of the assessment and recommendation, a decision will be taken on the future of such occupations.”
Didiza said that the government offers a 30-year leasehold, with an option to buy. This form of leasehold places certain obligations to the state as the lessor and beneficiaries as the lessees.
Didiza said that all beneficiaries who have been allocated state land and signed lease agreements will be subjected to a compulsory training programme.
The training programme will include entry-level training on the commodity of their choice, basic record keeping, and basic financial management as well as enterprise development.
Other lease agreements legal and compliance issues include:
- The lease agreement signed between the state and the beneficiary will be a legally binding contractual agreement;
- The lease agreement will not be transferable under any circumstances;
- The beneficiary will not be allowed to sub-lease or sublet a portion of land or the whole of the farm under the leasehold between him/her and the state;
- The beneficiary should maintain all the infrastructure and upkeep of the land allocated to him/her;
- The beneficiary will have to manage, maintain and keep the record of assets received from the state;
- Any investment made by the beneficiary must be recorded, valued and reported to the state;
- Beneficiaries will pay a monthly or annual rental fee per hectare determined by the state, consistent with the value of the land in line with area valuation;
- A credit management system will be put in place to manage debt recovery and management.
Failure to comply with any of the contractual obligations listed above, the state will consider the option of terminating the lease.
The government’s responsibilities are as follows:
- Enter into a lease agreement with the beneficiary, 30 days after approval of the application;
- Ensure that basic infrastructure is in good shape and register the infrastructure and assets on the farm;
- Issue monthly invoices to the beneficiary with payment due date;
- Undertake quarterly inspection visits by the Land administration unit to ensure that state infrastructure and assets are well kept;
- Table annual reports on the performance of the lease and productivity of the land to the minister.