DA defends land reform successes

The Democratic Alliance has refuted a report by the Mail & Guardian, defending its land reform policies in the Western Cape as being the most successful in the country.

In a statement on Friday, the office of Western Cape Premier Helen Zille reacted to the newspaper’s story, saying that the party has implemented a “highly effective and unique approach not utilised in any other province” to support “emerging farmers”.

“In a report this morning (‘The DA’s dodgy land claims’) the newspaper makes the obvious point that the constitutional mandate for land reform lies with national government, but then incorrectly implies that the province cannot claim success for projects within its borders,” Zille’s office said in a statement.

“If the Mail and Guardian has just discovered how the Constitution works, this is no excuse to manufacture a front page lead implying that land reform success in the Western Cape cannot be attributed to the provincial government,” the statement continues.

In its front page story, the Mail & Guardian had reported that the Western Cape government had been misleading in its statements over the past three years that it was responsible for land reform successes in the province.

Linda Page, spokesperson for the national department of rural development and agriculture, told the Mail & Guardian that it was the work of national government that allowed for land reform achievements in the province.

“It is the only department which has a land redistribution programme in the country, that is agricultural land. The DA does not perform this function,” the department’s spokesperson, Linda Page, said this week. “It is a baseless claim. And so, if the Western Cape has outperformed other provinces it is because the programmes under the department have performed well in the Western Cape.”

Zille’s office countered this statement on Friday morning, saying that national government policies prevent farmers from receiving title deeds to their land.

“The Western Cape government wholeheartedly supports a position that title deeds should be given to farmers who can demonstrate the capacity to run a successful agri-business.  Fifty years under current national policy is far too long, and cuts farmers off from accessing funds through financial institutions,” Zille’s office said.

The Premier’s office mentioned that the provincial government assisted farmers through providing technical support and in equipment through its Casidra project. It also said that it is the only province in the country to undertake independent land audits of land reform initiatives.

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