Land expropriation in spotlight in George
Alida de Beer
Adialogue on land reform and expropriation without compensation was hosted by the George Business Chamber on Tuesday 3 July, with a view to give business leaders and other stakeholders in George an opportunity to air their views and possible solutions to the land question.
It was held at the George Civic Centre.
Prof Quinton Johnson, chairman of the South African National Institute (Sani) for Land, Heritage and Human Rights, was the keynote speaker and facilitated the discussion.
The idea behind the event was to start with a process of determining how better food security, agricultural productivity, and increased investment in the economy can be ensured in the context of land expropriation without compensation, as voiced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Johnson stressed that deliberations around land reform are urgent if we want to ensure harmony and economic progress for all. It will take "all of us" to resolve the land issue and so prevent increasing violent protests over services from escalating into a national disaster. He said these protests all relate to land and it is costing the country billions.
Johnson highlighted the provisions of Section 25 of the Consitution, illustrating that it does not need to be amended to enable the acceleration and successful implementation of land reform.
"Our institution (Sani) and its partners believe the Constitution should simply be implemented. Government has failed its people through a lack of implementation. There is only one judge in the Land Claims Court that must deal with this complexity. Furthermore, the enormous corruption has harmed the process of land reform, and there are limited expert skills, exacerbated by cadre deployment. There has to be skills and capacity."
Credible land register
Sani proposes the formation of a superministry in the presidency for land and agricultural reform, appointing a land rights protector, and creating a credible land registry for rural and urban land reform. The possible repealing of some outdated legislation must be considered and a bill on access to land for spiritual and cultural purposes must also be drafted, among other things.
"It is thought that an expropriation act is going to be necessary, but we should include a limitation clause into such a bill," said Johnson.
Limitations on property considered for expropriation could include property held unproductively and for pure speculative purposes, and where the property is an abandoned building or unutilised land, underutilised property owned by public entities, or land that is actively farmed by labour tenants. He said government owns 5 000 farms and vast tracts of properties where distribution can be started "in a rational way".
Some of the issues that the audience touched on included the threat that expropriation without compensation can pose to food security and the economy; government's inability to drive transformation; the need for supporting emerging farmers by way of skills development, funding and access to markets; the need for knowledge sharing by commercial farmers; guarding agricultural land against urban development; and keeping up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution in agriculture.
The event, initiated by George Chamber chairman Dr Dennis Farrell and Prof Johnson, was attended by business people and representatives of the George Municipality.
Further meetings with various business chambers and municipalities are planned across the Garden Route District with the aim to develop a conceptual framework so that the region's communities can engage meaningfully with the Parliamentary Constitutional Review Committee, when they visit the region on 1 August.
All the people who attended the land dialogue on Monday. The facilitator and keynote speaker, Prof Quinton Johnson (black coat), is standing in the second row from the front on the left. In the front from left are George Business Chamber chairman Dr Dennis Farrell, George Mayor Melvin Naik, Pacaltsdorp Chamber chairman Julian Klassen, Thembalethu Chamber chairman Richard Shumi, and AHi Western Cape chairman Dr Willie Cilliers. INSET: Franklin Sonn said transformation did not take place only because of unbridled corruption in government. Farmers are also unwilling or slow to transform their farms to address the issue of land.