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The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has successfully concluded its nationwide public hearings on the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land (PDAL) Bill yesterday in the Western Cape at Riviersondered Town Hall in the Overberg District Municipality where many participants during the hearings expressed their support for the Bill.
Overberg District residents told the committee that the Bill is long overdue as access to agricultural land remains a huge challenge in the area and they pleaded for measures to be put in place to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the Bill when it is passed into law.
The Chairperson of the committee, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, said the purpose of the public hearings is to afford citizens to express their views on the Bill, to ensure that the final legislation is responsive to their needs. “As the committee, we appreciate all the meaningful and empowering inputs we have received as we criss-crossed the length and breath of the country,” Mandela said.
He added: “We are convinced that we have provided a strategic platform for all the affected stakeholders and the majority of South Africans, across all provinces to make oral inputs on the Bill.”
The Western Cape leg of the public hearings on the Bill was marked by a strong and sharp voice of appeal from the small-scale farmers for the Bill to make provision for empowerment and support. They indicated that the Bill in its current form excludes them. They called for access to land, water and electricity, among other things.
The residents especially farm dwellers and workers told the committee that they are still denied access to land and, worst of all, they are not recognised as human beings in the district. Representatives of small-scale farmers, one after another, told the committee that the government at all its levels does not assist them, they are instead being marginalised and pushed to the dry margins in the agricultural sector.
A representative of Agri-Western Cape indicated that they support the Bill, because they believe that the preservation of agricultural land is very important for food security in the country. The representative submitted that it is also important for the Bill to make provision for the preservation of land for mining, housing and food security. He further indicated that it is also important for the Bill to include communal land.
The Bill seeks to provide that the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act (SALA) of 1970 applies to all agricultural land in the country.
The Bill further aims to address SALA shortcomings and other identified weaknesses. SALA is currently administered only by the national department of agriculture and, as such, it does not conform to the constitutional requirements of cooperative governance where national, provincial and local spheres of government have a role to play. SALA is only applicable to privately owned land and thus, the department cannot protect high-value agricultural land owned by the state, statutory bodies, communal land and land administered by traditional authorities.
Issued by the Parliamentary communication Services on behalf of the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela