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
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