Nothing new on land restitution
No new initiatives referred to during Zuma’s state of the nation address, despite promises to ‘fundamentally change the structure of the system’
Despite the ANC and President Jacob Zuma hyping up the return of land late last year and during a statement on January 8, his state of the nation address (Sona) this week contained hardly any new initiatives. Expanding on Zuma’s speech, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti told City Press on Thursday night that they were working to fundamentally change the structure of the system, the patterns of ownership and the control of the economy.
In the build-up to Sona, the ANC hyped up the “return of land to the people” as one of the urgent tasks for the party and government this year. But both Zuma and Nkwinti were thin on detail, emphasising old instruments and announcing nothing new.
“It will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve true reconciliation until the land question is resolved,” noted Zuma, who then announced his government’s intention to use the Expropriation Act to pursue land reform and land redistribution. He added that he had decided to refer the Expropriation Bill back to Parliament for reconsideration because the bill might not pass constitutional muster.
“This is due to inadequate public participation during its processing,” he said.
The reopening of land claims is also on hold because the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court in July.
In the interview, Nkwinti was adamant that government was already on the path to radical land reform.
“There is what the president didn’t talk about: the Regulation of Agricultural Landholdings Bill that is coming to Parliament,” he said.
Zuma first announced that bill during Sona in 2015. The bill would introduce land ceilings and prohibit land ownership by foreign nationals. Do you think the ANC and government are doing enough to return land to SA’s citizens? SMS us on 35697 using the keyword LAND and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50 “That bill is going to set the ceilings; that is what is radical now, it is coming,” said Nkwinti. He said that, during consultations on the White Paper held last year, people said owning 12 000 hectares of land was “too much” and they proposed the ceiling be brought down by 7 000ha to 5 000ha. “You will have nothing to distribute,” they said. “That’s radical,” he added. Government had proposed the maximum ceiling of 12 000ha would apply only in three categories of land use – renewable energy farms, forestry and game farms. Nkwinti has previously explained that the proposals on the ceilings were to address the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. The ceiling for a viable commercial small-scale farm is 1 000ha and a medium-scale viable commercial farm is 2 500ha. For a large-scale viable commercial farm, it is 5 000ha. There were reports late last year that the proposed ceilings may change, and district municipalities may even determine their own ceilings. Any excess land portions between each of these categories, and more than the 12 000ha maximum, would be expropriated and redistributed. Nkwinti said the so-called 50-50 policy framework was another “radical” policy that was also changing patterns of ownership. In his speech, Zuma mentioned this programme among those government would continue to implement, revealing that 13 proposals that benefited 921 farm-dweller households valued at R631 million had already been approved.
In the programme, the farm workers band together to form a legal entity and, together with the farm owner, a new company is established, and the workers and the owner become joint owners.
“The 50-50 thing immediately turns workers who owned nothing to becoming owners of a business and they control the business. In other words, the pattern of ownership and control immediately [effects] radical economic transformation, with the direct social impact on the conditions of living, on the dignity of workers, on the patterns of ownership and control of the economy. That’s what the 50-50 policy is about,” he said.
Zuma spoke about 13 proposals, but Nkwinti revealed there were more than 90 others that were ready, but his department was waiting for the new financial year to be able to finance them.
While Zuma stated that only 8 million million hectares of arable land had been transferred to black people – or 9.8% of the country’s 82 million hectares of arable land – Nkwinti would not venture into numbers.
He refused to be drawn into discussing the preliminary findings of the much-awaited second phase of the land audit. Before its 2015 national general council, the ANC said the audit, which focuses on the nationality, race and gender of landowners, would be completed by September that year.
“They have come up with the preliminary report already,” said Nkwinti. The report has to go to Cabinet before it becomes a public document.
He said the difficulty with the audit was that trusts and companies were not controlled by his departments. Trusts fall under the justice department, while companies fall under the department of trade and industry. “They must help me by saying who is there,” he said. The audit is also looking at shareholderships in companies and trust ownership.
“That’s why I don’t release the report because I have to persuade the justice, and trade and industry ministers.”
Nkwinti revealed that, since the appointment of the Land Valuer-General, and doing away with the willing buyer, willing seller principle, the state saved R50 million in the past financial year.