Martin van Rooyen is a sugarcane farmer near Mtubatuba in KwaZulu Natal. He has been through the process of two willing-buyer willing-seller land reform processes and one land claim process.
He shared his experience with me.
“On the Enkwaleni farms we were approached by an agent who was working on behalf of the government. They were looking to source commercial sugar cane and citrus farms in the area. From the time they approached us the whole process had to go through an evaluation process with outside valuers etc, and it took about a year for the whole deal to finally go through. That was on the willing seller willing buyer and then our farms that was citrus and sugar cane were registered in the governments name but the beneficiaries were nine individuals of which I think six of them had full time employment with Allusaf in Richards Bay. And the other three were businessmen but I am not exactly sure what they were up to. Basically not one of them had any farming experience whatsoever and eight years later the farm is in rack and ruins. A couple of the local farmers are leasing the land and they are fixing it up and they are getting it back into production again. But of the original nine I think only the four are left. The other five of them just decided to bail on their own accord. The processes are very slow. The people that handle it on behalf of land affairs in the Richards Bay office are totally inefficient. There is a lot of paperwork and it went backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards and eventually after a twelve month period it went through. We were paid and we were told to get off the farm because they did not want us staying on as mentors or to assist them to get them up and running. They had absolutely no experience in farming.
They asked us if we would stay on as mentors but the recipients did not want us to stay, they will handle it themselves. Which they did but they obviously did not do a very good job because the farm is at about eight or ten percent of the original production of what it was.
It is totally flawed. 99.9% of the okes that are given farms on the willing seller willing buyer basis are all ANC cardholders and they are well connected within the ANC. If you are not you will not get a farm. It is that simple. IFP supporters will not get a farm. They get put at the back of the list and they will not get a farm Unless they are extremely well connected. The process of choosing the recipients is totally flawed. They do not have experience they have no farming knowledge whatsoever. Most of the come from Richards Bay or the city. Other of them run their own little businesses or have full time jobs. Certainly no one that I know of comes from a genuine farming background and has been able to cope. That is the one flaw in the system.
The other major flaw in the whole system of land claim and land reform, or willing seller willing buyer, is the governments ability to back up the new farmers, or the recipients or claimants. They don;t back them up financially. By the time financial assistance arrives it can be two-three years down the track. It is far too late. They don’t help them with working capital upfront. There is no training. There is no follow up. The guys get a farm, whether it is land claim or willing seller willing buyer. They get dumped on the farm and they get left at their own devises. It is just a recipe for disaster which has been proven that 95% of all land claims and land that has been repatriated to the new farmers has failed. There has been a 95% failure rate country wide. That is 100% the governments problem. They do not follow up, they do not assist. They just expect these guys to get a farm and carry on running commercial farms.”