I have followed the series of articles by Wandile Sihlobo and Johann Kirsten with keen interest underwritten by the knowledge that their proposed solutions to sustainable land reform are sensible, workable and, above all, practical.
However, on the ground there are many frustrations in the implementation phase for such initiatives.
We are commercial farmers who have had a well-considered land reform project on the table that was formulated as far back as 2011. Sadly, this initiative has been stifled for various reasons over the years, mostly due to red tape.
The baseline for our initiative is to implement a broad-based agri-BEE project, with the beneficiaries being our long-term permanent workforce. We will contribute the land, at market value less a BEE discount, into the project in exchange for a minority shareholding. We undertake to act as mentors and make one of our experienced managers available to manage the initiative. The farm will be run as an extension of our existing business. As shareholders, we will be incentivised to make the financials work for all stakeholders, including ourselves.
The financial administration will be managed at arms length across a desk that has already been created with the specific purpose of managing land reform projects within our industry. Six farms have been brought into this stable; all are now profitable.
Ironically, our company has forfeited a 5% shareholding in the mother agribusiness, which currently has an asset base in excess of R2bn, to support these land reform initiatives.
The outcome to date is that in exchange for this voluntary 5% contribution our company has received zero BEE recognition on the scorecard. How is this fair, given that these assets were created, in the main, utilising our own financial resources?
The bottom line is that the current land reform process is overpoliticised and deeply flawed. It will never achieve the desired outcomes unless there is a radical shift in mindset.
It is a given that expropriation without compensation will kill all such projects at birth, as there will be absolutely no incentive to initiate the investment.
It will be up to the government to make it work, and its track record to date is anything but encouraging. It will be a case of good luck and goodbye.