Not on a par with land re­form talk

The re­newed call for land re­form re­quires de­fined, ac­tion­able pro­grammes and a clear timetable. With­out this, suc­cess is un­likely

Financial Mail - Investors Monthly - - Budget 2017 - Joan Muller

Land re­form, or rather the lack thereof, doesn’t get much at­ten­tion in this year’s bud­get de­spite be­ing one of the key is­sues raised in Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s state of the na­tion (Sona) ad­dress ear­lier in Fe­bru­ary.

Land re­form was sin­gled out in that speech as one of the ANC’s 12 ur­gent tasks to achieve what the pres­i­dent called “rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion”.

In­dus­try com­men­ta­tors have long ar­gued that if there is to be a greater em­pha­sis on land re­form, there must also be a sub­stan­tial in­crease in gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

How­ever, this hasn’t hap­pened yet. The 2017/2018 bud­get al­lo­ca­tion for agri­cul­ture, ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and land re­form is up less than 3% to R26.53bn and still rep­re­sents less than 2% of to­tal gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­ture.

Though the bud­get al­lo­ca­tion is set to rise to nearly R30bn in 2019/2020, most of the in­creased spend­ing will go to­wards stim­u­lat­ing ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and food pro­duc­tion.

Gov­ern­ment will spend more than R5.5bn on a com­pre­hen­sive agri­cul­tural sup­port pro­gramme to pro­vide about 435,000 sub­sis­tence and small­holder farm­ers with equip­ment, fenc­ing, fer­tilis­ers, seedlings, re­pairs to flood-dam­aged in­fra­struc­ture and other ser­vices.

Fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han said the de­part­ment of ru­ral de­vel­op­ment & land re­form will also in­ten­sify the “One House­hold One Hectare” ini­tia­tive to pro­vide land to the land­less and fast-track the es­tab­lish­ment of agri-parks in district mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

In ar­eas where land has been dis­trib­uted, the de­part­ment will pro­vide mech­a­nised ir­ri­ga­tion, men­tor­ship and other in­puts so that the land be­comes pro­duc­tive and prof­itable.

About R4.3bn will be spent on this pro­gramme over the next three years. Gord­han said that since the pro­gramme was launched in 2008/2009, more than 4.7m ha of land has been ac­quired for re­dis­tri­bu­tion and 1,496 new farms cre­ated.

Gov­ern­ment will also as­sess the cur­rent fund­ing model to sup­port emerg­ing and land re­form farm­ers.

Cur­rently, there ap­pears to be some over­lap­ping on fund­ing struc­tures of­fered by the de­part­ment of agri­cul­ture, forestry & fish­eries and the de­part­ment of ru­ral de­vel­op­ment & land re­form.

Gord­han says the first task is to clar­ify the roles of each de­part­ment.

How­ever, in­dus­try com­men­ta­tors re­main scep­ti­cal on how re­cent pop­ulist rhetoric on land re­form will trans­late into im­proved land re­dis­tri­bu­tion pro­cesses and set­tle­ment of land claims.

Nkuli Bo­gopa, pres­i­dent of the SA In­sti­tute for Black Prop­erty Prac­ti­tion­ers, says that while the or­gan­i­sa­tion sup­ports Zuma’s re­newed call for land re­form, de­fined, ac­tion­able pro­grammes and a clear timetable are now re­quired.

“With­out the sup­port of a solid im­ple­men­ta­tion strat­egy and mea­sur­able tar­gets, it is un­likely that we will see re­sults in either the short or medium term,’’ says Bo­gopa.

Zuma’s Sona also brought the Ex­pro­pri­a­tion Bill, which was passed by par­lia­ment last year, back into the spot­light.

He said he would re­fer the bill back to par­lia­ment for more public par­tic­i­pa­tion to help speed up the long-stand­ing land re­dis­tri­bu­tion process.

The bill paves the way for gov­ern­ment to pay for land at a value de­ter­mined by the val­uer­gen­eral.

It also al­lows for ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land for the “public in­ter­est”, end­ing the will­ing-buyer, will­ing-seller ap­proach which has gov­erned land re­form in the past.

How­ever, in­dus­try body AfriBusi­ness says re­cent talk by ru­ral de­vel­op­ment & land re­form min­is­ter Gugile Nk­winti that prop­erty re­quired for land re­form should be ex­pro­pri­ated with­out com­pen­sa­tion sug­gests gov­ern­ment is con­sid­er­ing a Zim­babwe-style at­ti­tude to prop­erty rights.

AfriBusi­ness law and prop­erty an­a­lyst Ar­mand Greyling says the min­is­ter’s sug­ges­tions that amend­ments should be made to sec­tions of the con­sti­tu­tion that cur­rently pro­hibit state ac­qui­si­tion of prop­erty with­out com­pen­sa­tion, cre­ates the im­pres­sion that gov­ern­ment is will­ing to in­fringe on pri­vate prop­erty rights in or­der to push its po­lit­i­cal agenda.

“AfriBusi­ness will not hes­i­tate to in­sti­tute le­gal pro­ceed­ings to pro­tect, de­fend and up­hold the con­sti­tu­tion. Should gov­ern­ment pass any form of leg­is­la­tion that seeks to un­der­mine the sanc­tity of prop­erty rights in SA, it will be faced with strong op­po­si­tion,” says Greyling.

Nkuli Bo­gopa: Ac­tion­able pro­grammes and a clear timetable are now re­quired

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