A Cape Town farmer, who was among the first to transfer land to his labourers, is embarking on a process of mediation to rescue the failing business project.

Farm owner at Nelson’s Creek near Paarl, Alan Nelson, says the 1996 venture in which he transferred 14 hectares to the farm workers needs an independent arbitrator to become productive again.

Sixteen families were given 10% of the land they had successfully helped to farm.

Nelson says communal ownership, with an equal share arrangement, has proved disastrous.

“What we did is we transferred 20% of our productive land to all our then staff in equal shares in a communal property association. And I think that was a big mistake. I essentially thought that everybody wanted to farm or wanted to be part of that business, and what I should have done in retrospect is I should have taken only the few that really want to farm and got them in charge of the land; and I think things would have been much different. At the end of the day there was a lot of infighting between all the equal shareholders with nobody being in charge, and it didn’t work.”