Cablegate: South African Government Proposes Charter For

Published: Fri 30 Jul 2004 03:10 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. SUMMARY: The South African Department of Agriculture
released its proposal for black economic empowerment (BEE) in
the agricultural sector this week. The draft charter calls
for major changes in the racial demography of the sector
within ten years. The vastly white agricultural community
criticized the proposal, with one group claiming it would
lead to the collapse of the sector. END SUMMARY.
2. The South African Government released a draft
agricultural charter for black economic empowerment (BEE)
July 26. The charter, known as AgriBEE, sets out targets for
the country's agricultural sector including 35% black
ownership of agricultural enterprises by 2008. The draft
charter also stated that 50% of agricultural land (a 20
percentage point increase over the original 30% proposal),
including that owned by the state, should be available to
black farmers by 2014. One provision calls for farmers to
allocate 10% of their land to farmworkers for their own
activities. Farmers will also be expected to procure 70% of
their inputs from BEE companies by 2015. The transfer of
farms envisaged by the charter will cost the government no
less than 50 billion Rand. The charter applies to "all
economic activities relating to the provision of agricultural
inputs, services, farming, processing, distribution,
logistics, and allied activities that add value to
agricultural products." Agricultural Minister Thoko Didiza
said, "Given the history of injustices in our country, this
is a means to redress such imbalances."
3. The response of South Africa's predominantly white
agricultural community to the charter has been overwhelmingly
negative. Mr. Bully Botma, Grain South Africa's chairman,
said that many of the key elements of the document agreed
upon by by the stakeholders and role-players had been omitted
whilst many others had been unilaterally introduced, making
"a mockery of the whole negotiation process." Pieter Mulder,
leader of the Freedom Front Plus (a conservative political
party representing mainly Afrikaner interests), issued a
statement denouncing the document for "unrealistic
timeframes, too little emphasis on productivity, and the
creation of unachievable expectations," and focusing "only on
quotas." The Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) stated that
the AgriBEE framework would lead to the collapse of
agriculture in South Africa, placing the country on the same
route as Zimbabwe. They also stated, "Our initial opinion is
that the proposed framework will destroy the principle of
property rights and the free market system." Agricultural
Business Chamber CEO Tobias Doyer said that the government
was creating a "very difficult challenge," especially in
terms of finding the financial capital to reach the targets.
To put things in perspective, only about 3% of farmland has
been transferred to black ownership since 1994.
4. The charter is open to negotiation until November, when a
final draft will be prepared for ratification by the cabinet.
Motsepe Matlala, the president of the National African
Farmers Union (NAFU), which represents black farmers'
interests, said he did not think the targets were especially
tough, "provided that the government worked together with the
private sector." However, he was "sure that discussions over
the next few months may shift the views of the government."
AgriSA executive director Hans van der Merwe said that the
first draft is "a point of departure for robust discussion,"
especially as there is no indication in the charter of how
emerging farmers will receive crucial support. Democratic
Alliance agricultural spokesman Kraai van Niekerk suggests
the charter should follow the example set by the information,
communication, and technology (ICT) and financial sectors, in
which private industry was invited to work on the drafts.
Minister Didiza will appoint a steering committee which will
"adequately reflect the agricultural sector and the
government" to undertake consultations regarding the charter.
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