Land Bank denies unethical behaviour towards ‘distressed’ farmers

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The Land and Agricultural Development Bank of South Africa (Land Bank) has denied claims that it is using aggressive and strong-arm tactics to liquidate clients who default on their loan repayment obligations.

Despite countless complaints, the Land Bank has denied allegations of impropriety when dealing with the liquidation of farmers who default on loan repayments. Photo: FW Archive

Land Bank said in a statement that an investigation undertaken in July with regard to claims made in the media about such conduct, showed that there was no evidence to support allegations that the bank and/or its legal representatives may have acted illegally, unethically, or implemented or used inappropriate or illegal practices or actions.

According to its statement, the bank’s debt recovery methods were based on risk mitigating strategies that were intended to work with its clients in finding solutions that would mitigate risk to their business operations.

It was also the bank’s intention to provide “targeted solutions in instances where farmers experience distress and default on their [credit] facilities as a result of such risk factors”.

An attorney, who spoke to Farmer’s Weekly on condition of anonymity, and who had acted on behalf of a Northern Cape farmer who had been affected by the bank’s actions, said although the bank’s agents acted within the framework of the law, they acted “cold-bloodedly, without any sympathy towards the farmers, the majority of whom were still in a recovery stage following the previous years’ drought in the province”.

“In my opinion, they acted like sharks. It is, secondly, not the task of the bank to send its agents or representatives to the affected farmers in a liquidation case. It is the task of a bailiff.

“My client was openly humiliated, treated with utmost disdain and without any inclination from the bank’s agents to listen to reason. The fact of the matter is that my client, who farms on 80 000ha, received enough rain during the past year to get his livestock production farming concern back on track.

“The bank’s representatives simply refused to take this into consideration and remained hell-bent on liquidation,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dr Theo de Jager, chairperson of the Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI), said the organisation had been inundated with reports of unscrupulous behaviour from Land Bank agents on farms.

“SAAI has therefore made it possible for affected farmers to send appeals and reports on what happen on their farms directly to the Minister of Finance [Enoch Godongwana], as well as to the Land Bank via Facebook.

“We have [at times] counted as many as 13 reports per minute being sent to these recipients,” he added.

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