Agricultural woes: Gideon van Zyl checks for rain as he walks past vines on his farm in the Western Cape. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
Agricultural woes: Gideon van Zyl checks for rain as he walks past vines on his farm in the Western Cape. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

Agricultural industry body AgriSA has vowed to go all the way to the Constitutional Court to protect property rights.

The organisation said on Monday it had noted the statement by the ANC that 139 farms had been identified for expropriation without compensation.

The ANC’s new land reform drive is sparking huge concern in the agricultural sector and the rest of the economy.

Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa said his party would support an amendment to the constitution that would make it clear how land could be expropriated without compensation.

The ANC has previously stated that it wanted to test the limits of section 25 of the constitution regarding this issue.

"AgriSA will closely monitor this situation and will be involved in test cases where principles of compensation will be clarified," said the organisation’s president, Dan Kriek.

"AgriSA has already been involved in such matters and will not hesitate to do it again. It is the courts’ duty to interpret legislation and the constitution.

"The principle of compensation for expropriation is recognised internationally, although there are different standards for remuneration. Internationally, expropriation without compensation is only permitted in very limited circumstances.

"Agri SA will go to the Constitutional Court if needed to defend the principles of equity and protection of the rights of the individual."

Organised agriculture in the Western Cape has dismissed the work of the joint constitutional review committee into land expropriation without compensation as having "unleashed an open-ended debate which has generated unrealistic expectations and anxiety".

The effect of expropriation without compensation is likely to profoundly affect the established agricultural business sector, with institutions warning that production loans to farmers could become either unaffordable or unavailable in a climate of policy uncertainty.

In the Western Cape, which was declared a disaster area in 2017 while in the grip of a drought, agriculture lost about 7,000 jobs in the first quarter of 2018 from the first quarter in 2017, according to Stats SA.

Agri Western Cape said on Monday it did not get an opportunity to tackle the constitutional review committee on these and related issues during its public meeting in Cape Town at the weekend. It said the committee did not facilitate a responsible debate by presenting options for constitutional amendment and that the purpose of its meeting had not been identified sufficiently.

However, Vincent Smith, the committee’s chairman, said no-one had been deliberately excluded from addressing people, but that in a meeting of about 3,000 people, clearly not everyone could be heard.

Agri Western Cape said the land debate divorces land from capital investment, which is not achievable. "It contains a number of vagaries the legal system also struggles with and should rather focus on 20 years of the government’s inability to implement land reform in a manner that benefits both the beneficiaries and the agricultural sector. A scrutiny of the reasons for the dismal and massive land reform failure is required," Agri Western Cape CEO Carl Opperman said.

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