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S.African land reform projects in need of rescue: minister

South Africa’s government has identified 852 collapsing land reform projects for rescue after they were handed to black farmers to right apartheid wrongs, a minister said on Monday.

“To date 852 distressed farms have been advertised for expressions of interest by either mentors or strategic partners interested in making them commercially viable and productive across the country,” land reform minister Gugile Nkwinti said in a reply to a parliamentary question.

Mentors — consultants or commercial farmers hired to aid the new black farmers — and corporate partners have already agreed to support nearly half of the distressed farms identified by government, he added.

The ministry set aside 900 million rands ($128 million, 91 million euros) last year for a bail-out programme, which accounts a quarter of the land-purchase budget meant to buy farms for handover to blacks.

Land redistribution efforts are meant to change apartheid patterns that saw 87 percent of South Africa’s commercial farms owned by minority whites when the first all-race elections were held in 1994.

Nkwinti has previously said that land reform efforts so far have failed, with most of the projects unproductive, leaving government way short of a target to transfer a third of the white-owned farms to black owners by 2014.

A much anticipated new land reform strategy has yet to be unveiled after repeated delays.