Mark Steele, MPP
DA KZN Spokesperson on Agriculture
BLAMING the Ithala Development Bank for the lack of access to loans and credit by the occupants of KwaZulu-Natal’s communal lands is hardly fair on the Bank. The problems run much deeper than those of a single institution. Until the right conditions for creating wealth and opportunities exist in rural areas – and specifically on land controlled by the Ingonyama Trust – there is little point in establishing yet another rural development bank.
The suggestion to establish another development bank, made by King Goodwill Zwelithini at an Ingonyama Rural Development Forum meeting earlier this week, comes after members of the Trust Board slammed KZN development bank, Ithala, claiming that it had forgotten about the interests of people occupying three million hectares of land under tribal leadership.
The reality is that millions of people continue to live on communal land without access to individual title deeds, leaving them without the means to access commercial capital. Yes, there are now formal leasehold agreements which should serve as loan collateral, but these are not yet commercial items which can be exchangeable or tradeable. This means that commercial banks cannot re-possess on a defaulters loan and then sell on the asset, be it the land title or the leasehold rights, on the open market.
The DA firmly believes that rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal have the skills and sources of untapped wealth which they can use in their own development. Examples abound from other countries, and especially India, of how rural communities are able to access and use micro-financing creatively to further their own development and food security needs, but the right conditions must be place so that the lending and repaying of loan finance becomes a reality.