Struggling farmers – Land Bank’s brutal tactic of bullying farmers must not be tolerated

FF Plus

Struggling farmers – Land Bank’s brutal tactic of bullying farmers must not be tolerated
Struggling farmers - Land Bank’s brutal tactic of bullying farmers must not be tolerated

Land Bank’s alleged use of intimidation tactics to drive struggling farmers off their farms is alarming and unacceptable. The tactic reportedly entails using former soldiers from the 32 Battalion to occupy the farms of farmers who are experiencing problems with repaying their loans to Land Bank.

According to reports, these soldiers were hired by a private company, which supposedly does the Bank’s dirty work of bullying farmers at a fee of about R1,5 million per month.

The FF Plus will join hands with interested parties and do everything in its power to have the matter addressed on the highest level to protect the farming community.

Land Bank was, first and foremost, established to help farmers back on their feet and to support them during difficult times, like droughts, to ensure food security in the country.

But now quite the opposite is happening, because extraordinary intimidation tactics are being used to drive farmers off their land.

In one such incident, which reportedly occurred in the Karoo, former soldiers of the 32 Battalion unlawfully accessed and ‘took over’ a farm and farmhouse because the farmer was supposedly behind with making payments to Land Bank.

According to reports, that was not the case and the farmer had to present documentary evidence and call in the police’s help to remove the trespassers from his farm.

In other cases, provisional sequestration orders were, however, obtained due to outstanding debt to Land Bank. The Bank’s debt collector is using brutal and irregular methods that will not benefit the Bank financially.

Large parts of the Karoo have been affected by a serious drought, particularly over the past seven years, and this has driven many farmers to the edge.

To make matters even worse for farmers, trade banks have become unwilling to help them due to the government’s behaviour.

Factors like threats of expropriation without compensation, a struggling economy, and the general demonising of farmers have greatly contributed to this.

As a result, farmers have become even more dependent on Land Bank, which has been experiencing its own financial problems since 2020.

This is partly the Bank’s own doing as it awarded loans to emerging farmers who would never be able to pay it back.

At the time, the Bank drastically raised its interest rates and put a lot of pressure on existing commercial farmers to repay their loans in full.

Years ago, experts recommended that Land Bank must establish a commercial leg to remain profitable, while retaining the development function, which is of the utmost importance for providing support to farmers and, consequently, ensuring food security.

Alternative options, like a payment holiday for farmers who are going through a rough patch financially, must also be considered.

Because farming can become profitable again, as is currently the case in large parts of the Karoo where it has rained, and then those loans can be serviced. Taking drastic and premature action is certainly not in the best interest of the entire agricultural sector, food security and the survival of Land Bank itself.

The money that Land Bank is using to force farmers off their land and store their possessions must rather be used sensibly by helping those farmers get back on their feet. That would be a practical long-term solution.

Once a farmer has been removed from his farm, however, it is much harder to make profitable commercial use of the land again, especially in the current economic context and amid the same climate problems. And no-one benefits from it.

The FF Plus will take the matter up with the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana. Land Bank must rather engage and negotiate with farmers instead of using this brutal intimidation tactic, which benefits no-one.

Read the original article in Afrikaans by Wouter Wessels on FF Plus