President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives in Parliament to address the annual official opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders on February 19 2019. Picture: JAIRUS MMUTLE/GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives in Parliament to address the annual official opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders on February 19 2019. Picture: JAIRUS MMUTLE/GCIS

The government has finalised  30-year leases with 900 farmers to enable them to mobilise funding for agricultural development, President Cyril Ramaphosa says. 

“These measures are part of the broader effort to unleash an agricultural revolution in SA. The epicentre of this revolution will be in the rural areas of our country,” Ramaphosa said on Tuesday in his address to officially open the National House of Traditional Leaders.

“Our first task is to accelerate inclusive economic growth and create jobs. The most direct way out of poverty for our people is through employment and other productive economic activity, such as small business ownership and farming,”  he said.

The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies says more than 70% of commercial farms in SA are owned by white farmers. There are about 39,000 white commercial farmers and 5,300 black farmers, according to the African Farmers Association of SA.

In many instances, black farmers struggle to get access to markets, finance and technical support to link them with integrated value chains. The land issue has dominated political discourse in recent months, amid a new push for land expropriation without compensation, a move that observers say has spooked investors.

Ramaphosa said the government considers traditional leaders as key in the drive to redress the imbalances of the past.

“As government, we appreciate the strong working relationship we have developed to address those issues that most affect our people. The institution of traditional leadership is an integral part of our nation’s past, its present and its future,” said Ramaphosa.

“We consider further engagement with the advisory panel [on land reform] necessary for the development of a comprehensive programme of accelerated land reform that gives effect to the Freedom Charter’s injunction that the land shall be shared among those who work it.

“We are committed to work with traditional leaders to significantly expand the amount of arable land available for agricultural production, both for food security and to create jobs opportunities. Since we last addressed this issue in the National House of Traditional Leaders, we are encouraged by the fact that more traditional leaders have identified land that can be designated for agricultural production,” said Ramaphosa.

The National House of Traditional Leaders is made up of  traditional leaders who are delegates from the provincial houses and whose functions include promoting the role of traditional leadership, enhancing unity and understanding among communities, and advising the government on matters that affect the people. 

phakathib@businesslive.co.za