Following yesterday’s budget speech, Saai is sceptical over the small budget allocated to finalising land claims. Tito Mboweni, Minister of Finance, said yesterday that R500 million had been budgeted for the finalisation thereof.
According to Theo de Jager, Saai’s Chairperson of the Board of Directors, there are significantly more farms listed in the Government Gazette under outstanding land claims than what were bought over the last 20 years. The total budget allocated for this purpose is but half of what Government spent on a single farm, Mala-Mala, as part of a land claim.
“The state’s budget for land claims for the next three years is in fact only 2% of what Roelf Meyer committed to through his newly-founded agricultural development agency for the support of beneficiaries. Outstanding court cases against the Department– given the its bad track record in the courts – may very well deplete the total budget. The inadequate budget for land reform is simply more proof that government – despite the abuse of the land issue to create unrealistic expectations for the poor rural communities – is neither serious about maintaining a healthy, competitive agricultural sector, nor about creating a class of successful black farmers with profitable farms,” De Jager says.
In terms of agriculture, some highlights include the confirmation of independent electricity delivery to the national network, the preliminary amount of R500 million for disaster relief as witnessed currently with the ongoing drought, and R495,1 million for biosecurity after the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. These contributions can bring relief to affected farmers on condition that they receive it without discrimination.
“The problem is not the value of the allocated funds, but rather how these available funds are appropriated,” says Francois Rossouw, CEO of Saai.
Mboweni is spot on with his statement that the state will now have to do more with less funds and that corruption, misappropriation and state capture should be eradicated.
“The strengthening of the National Prosecuting Authority and special investigation units with R2,4 billion, together with the condemnation of crime such as those arising from the Zondo Commission hearings, are positive signs, but these gestures can only be viewed as legitimate when there is active prosecution,” Rossouw adds.
South Africa has a lamentable history of misappropriation and corruption, and even the best budget is vulnerable if the guilty parties control the purse. A financial turnaround starts with the prosecution of corrupt officials and not with increased pressure on the taxpayers.