In what the Democratic Alliance (DA) has called a ‘landmark verdict’, the North Gauteng High Court has compelled the state to sell Nooitgedacht farm in Limpopo David Rakgase, the man who has farmed the land for 28 years.
Rakgase first leased Nooitgedacht farm in 1991
Rakgase signed the 30-year lease to the 179-hectare farm with the previous regime in 1991 and it was taken over by the African National Congress (ANC) government who took over in 1994 and has been in power ever since.
Rakgase was offered the chance to purchase the farm in 2002 by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform under the now-defunct Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development programme.
He officially made an offer in 2003 and it was initially accepted by the department but Rakgase eventually had to turn to the courts after it appeared as if it would renege on the deal and instead offer a 30-year extension on the lease.
North Gauteng High Court orders state to sell the land
The matter came to a conclusion on 4 September 2019 when the North Gauteng High Court overturned the department’s decision and gave the State 30 days to sell the farm to Rakgase on the terms and conditions and price which would have applied if the farm had been sold to him under the LRAD programme in 2003.
“This ruling sets an important precedent, as countless other black, small-scale farmers can finally challenge the ANC government’s failure in land reform,” wrote Annette Steyn, DA Shadow Minister of Rural Development and Land, in a statement.
“Mr. Rakgase is not the only emerging black farmer that has been dealt a bad hand by government. There are many others who have suffered a similar fate due to the ANC’s fragmented land redistribution position.”
The official opposition was in court to support the farmer during the trial and urged others who believe they have a legitimate claim to purchase land from the government to come forward.
Land expropriation in South Africa
The topic of land in South Africa is an emotional one right now, with the issue of land expropriation without compensation being hotly debated across all sectors of South African society.
However, the DA is concerned about the ANC pushing for the redistribution of land when it is hanging on to farms that have been run by other people for almost three decades.
“Being a tenant farmer is not real empowerment, it is in fact, a hallmark of the ANC that will have you believe that they care about land reform but, in reality, they care about control,” Steyn said.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa has unremittingly maintained that his party does not support nationalisation of land, yet, court papers in the Rakgase matter uncovered that the ANC government has actively pushed for state land ownership for years.”
The South African blueberry industry is expecting year-on-year production growth of around 45% in 2019 and this will have an exponential effect on job creation, according to the South African Berry Producers Association (SABPA).
Stellar growth of the blueberry industry
The SABPA projects the industry to produce about 17 000 metric tons of blueberries in 2019, compared with the 11 700 produced the year before.
This is actually just the continuation of the meteoric rise of South African blueberries, especially in terms of export growth.
In 2014, South African exported just 1 558 metric tons of blueberries. The industry typically exports around 70% of its product, which amount to 14 000 metric tons in 2019. This represents an average annual growth rate of close to 160% which amounts to almost 800% over the last five years.
And it is nowhere close to slowing down according to industry insiders.
The future looks even brighter
Elzette Schutte, operations manager at SABPA, has forecast production to reach a quite phenomenal 50 000 metric tons within the next five years.
If South Africa could maintain its export levels with that growth, and it would definitely have to, it would place the Rainbow Nation among the Netherlands and the USA as the fifth and sixth-largest blueberry exporters in the world respectively.
According to a recent economic impact study of the industry, compiled by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture in collaboration with the SABPA, the South African blueberry industry is one of the fastest-growing horticultural industries in the country.
There are expected to be 4 800 hectares of blueberries planted in the country by 2023.
Growth will create plenty of jobs
The growth will also have a massive effect on jobs according to the SABPA.
“This will mean an exponential increase in jobs created, up from 1000 in 2014 to 8000 in 2019. Furthermore, by 2023, production is expected to reach 50 000 tons which will translate into 14 000 jobs,” Thabi Ndhlovu of the South African Berry Producers Association wrote on Fresh Plaza.
In the wake of the terrible employment statistics in South Africa that were recently revealed this could be a huge win for the country.
Growth of blueberry industry rests on finding more export partners
However, as stated above, the growth is almost exclusively hinged on maintaining export levels of around 70% or more.
Perhaps it could make more sense to export less if and when the employment situation gets better in South Africa, but for right now growth relies on finding more export destinations.
“Currently, South Africa does not have access to key markets like China and South Korea at a time when blueberry imports are growing phenomenally in these markets,” said Ndhlovu.
South Africa cosying up to China
It is no secret that relations between South African and China have been growing closer under President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He even made two references to China in his state of the nation address and backed the country in its trade war with the United States of America.
China has also expressed its support of Ramaphosa as President of South Africa on numerous occasions.
Hopefully, this will help expedite the process of gaining the export protocols that will allow South African blueberries to be exported to China. Apparently, this can take as long as 17 years.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) believes the Northern Cape drought could result in the loss of 62 000 jobs in the province if something isn’t done to help out soon.
One potential reason for the prevailing Northern Cape drought conditions might be because it has been going on for five years, so it is not exactly new or exciting news.
However, that in no way means the situation is any less deserving of attention though and, if the report shared by the DA is accurate, is becoming increasingly dire.
Northern Cape drought report
The official opposition shared a link to an unpublished report apparently compiled by the Northern Cape government that paints a pretty bleak picture.
You can see the full report by clicking on the link above, but the bullet point lowlights are:
- Stock farmers have access to very limited food supply from natural rangelands
- Borehole levels in many areas are dropping significantly
- 10 000 farms with a carrying capacity of 166 000 large stock units have experienced prolonged drought. This could increase to 1 million large stock units if nothing is done.
- Prolonged drought conditions have prevailed for the past five years
- Farmers are so indebted that they cannot secure loans to keep their farms running
- 62 000 jobs throughout the province are at risk
- Kids are missing school because parents can’t afford transport costs
- Even if the rain comes, it will take five years for farmers and land to fully recover
“The Northern Cape is experiencing one of the worst droughts in more than a century,” reads the very first line of the executive summary of the report.
“The direct impact of this current drought and potential escalation if the drought prevails will be disastrous to the economy of the Northern Cape Province.”
Declarations of district and provincial disasters have been made before, but the funding model that comes with it has been inadequate, according to DA leader Mmusi Maimane.
“The funding typically helps farmers for about three months, after which time they again have to fend for themselves, as disaster proclamations and drought relief expires after three months,” he explained.
The DA is, therefore, asking Northern Cape Premier Dr. Zamani Saul to declare a provincial emergency and escalate the issue as quickly as possible.
“We are also calling on the Premier to see to it that the ineffective disaster management system is reviewed to ensure that drought relief is effected more speedily and is more sustainable,” Maimane added.
A South African company, Canbigold, is growing medical marijuana in shipping containers for export and you can buy one.
Medical marijuana containers
CanbiGold began its operation with a license to cultivate and export medical marijuana in Lesotho.
They started with a typical indoor growing operation inside a large facility but soon became bogged down by red tape.
“We struggled to get certification for the setup we had. We started to look at more modular set-ups,” said Armand Redelinghuys, operations manager at CanbiGold.
“If you can’t get the certification you have to break it down and do it all over again. The guidelines are very strict.”
And so the idea for shipping container grow rooms and a more modular business model was born.
The benefits of containers
Affectionately known as ‘fortresses’ by the company, the containers do far more than allow them to get licensing in Lesotho.
Growing anything in a smaller environment gives you much more control over the quality of the product and what it is introduced to during crucial phases of its growth cycle.
“Your pest control is a lot easier. That was one of the aims of the fortress. The only thing that goes into it is purified air and water. We try and eliminate any form of fungi or pest from getting in,” Redelinghuys added.
Cultivating, growing marijuana for personal use was effectively made legal by a Constitutional Court ruling in 2018. So it seems a bit convoluted to have a growing operation in another country.
Redelinghuys explained to The South African that they were already well along their licensing journey when the ruling was passed in South Africa.
And even then, the ruling had nothing to do with medical marijuana and potentially exporting it.
“This was the easiest way of doing it. It was easy enough to get a license to grow in Lesotho and export to our clients,” he explained.
“The first license in Cape Town has only issued three weeks ago. For us to apply for licenses now, we wouldn’t be sure if we would get a license in the next 12 months so we just decided to stick our guns in Lesotho.
Buying a medical marijuana fortress
Now that the scene is set, down to the good stuff: How to get involved and buy a container to grow and export medical marijuana.
Because the growing operation is inside a structure that was literally designed to be carted all over the world, CanbiGold is able to take the containers to the client.
“It is a modular business model so fortresses can be taken to whoever and wherever the client chooses,” Redelinghuys said.
Don’t get excited just yet though, getting your hands on a weed-growing container will cost in the region of R6 million.
It sounds like a lot, but with Redelinghuys’ predictions that the container will produce 25kg per of product per year worth in the region of R5.6 million, the return on investment seems quite enticing if you have the money to start with.
Leaving it in Canbigold’s hands
There is a catch. If you take delivery of a fortress and grow on your own land, licensing and finding people to export to will be your problem.
Applying for a license would be helped by the fact that the containers comply with all rules and regulations stipulated by the South African law, but it would likely still be quite an arduous process.
Thankfully there is a work-around.
“If they wish to do so, we allow clients to grow on our land and partake in our agreements, but they are free to do whatever they want with their product.”
This would appear to be a much simpler solution for most parties. Especially after Redelinghuys revealed CanbiGold already has contracts to export to both Australia and Canada.
However, anyone hoping to get hold of a fortress to sell locally or for other nefarious means will probably come up short.
“If you own a fortress, you will have access to the fortress, but all the plants through the entire process are tracked so no stock will ever get lost,” Redelinghuys concluded.
If you are interested in finding out more about how the Fortresses work, click here.