Lack of black farmer unions’ voice on land expropriation bill

Parliament today (March 24) resumes with oral submissions from those who made substantive written submissions regarding the amendment 18 of Section 25 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. 

Various civil organisations are on the list except for several black farming unions.

Calls for written submissions on the amendment of Section 25 of the Land Expropriation Bill closed on 28 February in 2021. So far, not a single black farming union had raised alarm nor attempted to conduct a campaign on whether to be for or against the amendment. As a result, black farmers were not rallied behind to pack the public engagements and submit their written responses.   

Agri SA on the other hand, a union representing mostly white commercial farmers, took the matter seriously, going as far as commissioning a study and seeking a legal opinion on behalf of its members.

While the two biggest black unions, National African Farmers Union (NAFU) and the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA), had made representations on the land expropriation debate before, they don’t seem to appear anywhere on the list of oral submissions.

In 2018, at the University of Free State Thought Leader Series on Land Reform, NAFU President Motsepe Matlala said: “Given the historic context to South Africa’s Land Question, and, the Post 1994 Land and Agrarian reform experience and outcomes, as NAFU, we call for a significant paradigm shift, one that begs, our indulgence to consider, a wholesale, all-inclusive alternative that will meet the writ of the LEWC motion and advance, an all-inclusive, de-racialised land and agrarian economy in SA.”

AFASA leadership squabbles have continued to tear the union apart with leaders from various camps issuing contradicting statements. Its Chairperson Neo Masithela once came out in full support of the expropriation bill but half way in 2020 AFASA’s secretary general Nakana Masika sang a different tune. 

Mzansi Agriculture Talk reached out to the two unions and several others to address this question and more, but no comment was received at the time of going to print. 

The Farmers United of South Africa (FUSA) and the Black Farmers Association of South Africa (BFASA) have two radical leaders at the helm, unafraid to confront “systematic racism” in the sector, yet both will not be taking part in the submissions. 

Agri SA was also once a union cut from the same piece of cloth as TLU focused on racial agricultural politics. But with the arrival of Omri Van Zyl, he began shaping the organisation to align its member interests to the policy environment of the country. This approach has proven successful, as Agri SA has become one of the most powerful influencers in the agricultural policy and trade. 

Even today, none of the black farming unions, government policy makers, retailers and businesses dare oppose Agri SA when it claims that it “represents the largest group of rural landowners.”

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