Hot land is­sue re­quires cool heads

Cur­rent rhetoric presents the ar­gu­ments as a zero-sum game – you are ei­ther en­tirely in favour or en­tirely against the ‘ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion’ pro­posal, there is no mid­dle ground, writes Zamikhaya Maseti

The Star Late Edition - - INSIDE - Maseti is a se­nior spe­cial­ist in pub­lic and sec­tor pol­icy at the Land Bank

THE re­cent adop­tion of the mo­tion on the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion by the Na­tional Assem­bly has served to in­ten­sify the al­ready heated de­bates on the coun­try’s agri­cul­tural tra­jec­tory and its fu­ture.

The fierce de­bate in the Na­tional Assem­bly re­vealed just how com­plex land and agri­cul­tural re­form is in South Africa.

What is clear from the mo­tion is that the sta­tus quo on land is both com­pletely un­ten­able and un­sus­tain­able. To ig­nore these re­al­i­ties is un­wise and al­to­gether dan­ger­ous.

It is no se­cret that the gov­ern­ment’s land re­form pro­gramme has not achieved its in­tended out­comes. The for­mer min­is­ter of ru­ral devel­op­ment and land re­form ex­plained dur­ing the land ex­pro­pri­a­tion de­bate in Par­lia­ment that the first group of land re­form ben­e­fi­cia­ries un­der the then Land Re­dis­tri­bu­tion for Agri­cul­tural Devel­op­ment pro­gramme had sold 5% of the re­dis­tributed farms back to the white com­mer­cial farm­ers who used to own it.

This just high­lights one of a num­ber of chal­lenges that have plagued our land re­form ef­forts to date.

Even with pol­icy de­vel­op­ments seek­ing to ad­dress these is­sues and to fast­track the land re­form process, such as the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Proac­tive Land Ac­qui­si­tion Strat­egy; gov­ern­ment’s “use it or lose it” ap­proach adopted in 2008, the 50/50 pol­icy; the Ex­ten­sion of Se­cu­rity of Ten­ure Amend­ment Bill; the Reg­u­la­tion of Land Hold­ings Bill; and the Com­mu­nal Land Bill, the pace of land re­form has been painfully slow.

One of the great­est land re­form chal­lenges to-date is the un­der­util­i­sa­tion of agri­cul­tural land that was given to com­mu­ni­ties es­pe­cially in com­mu­nal ar­eas.

Ac­cu­rate of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion on just how much land has been re­dis­tributed since 1994 is dif­fi­cult to come by, in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion on how much of this land is now pro­duc­tive.

It is widely ac­knowl­edged by sec­tor play­ers, in­clud­ing the gov­ern­ment, that a ma­jor part of this lack of pro­duc­tiv­ity is due to the lack of ca­pac­ity and skills of those who have re­ceived land, as well as a lack of ac­cess to fi­nance. This is a bar­rier that ac­tu­ally serves to re­verse agri­cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion in South Africa.

With the mo­tion on land ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion now tak­ing cen­tre stage in the land de­bate, it is more im­por­tant than ever to re­visit the is­sue of land re­form as a key de­par­ture point.

The de­bate around whether or not the state should tar­get pri­vate land or state land is less im­por­tant than ad­dress­ing the his­tor­i­cal in­jus­tices brought about by the Land Act of 1913.

The con­sti­tu­tion and other gov­ern­ment pol­icy doc­u­ments, such as the Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan, call for the greater in­clu­sion of his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­u­als into the agri­cul­ture sec­tor, the fa­cil­i­ta­tion of in­creased ac­cess to land, as well as a de­ra­cialised sec­tor work­ing to achieve re­dress for past dis­crim­i­na­tory poli­cies.

Some of the rhetoric in this de­bate presents the ar­gu­ments as a sort of zero-sum game – you are ei­ther en­tirely in favour or en­tirely against the “ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion” pro­posal. There is no mid­dle ground.

With the com­plex­i­ties as­so­ci­ated with land in gen­eral, how­ever, a deeper ap­proach to un­der­stand­ing and ap­pli­ca­tion is go­ing to be es­sen­tial as we move for­ward.

It is en­tirely ra­tio­nal to sup­port all ef­forts to ad­vance an ef­fec­tive land re­form pro­gramme that will achieve trans­for­ma­tion in tan­dem with in­creased agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, se­cure ten­ure, em­ploy­ment cre­ation and food se­cu­rity. Given the skewed na­ture of land own­er­ship, it is also en­tirely ra­tio­nal to un­der­stand the strong calls for re­dress, es­pe­cially in the face of deep­en­ing in­equal­ity and poverty which still per­sist very much along racial lines.

Both the gov­ern­ment and the gov­ern­ing party have con­tin­ued to re­it­er­ate their com­mit­ment to im­ple­ment­ing this op­tion in a way in which po­ten­tial risks and con­cerns are ap­pro­pri­ately re­duced.

How­ever this op­tion ma­te­ri­alises, it is im­por­tant that the ap­proach taken shields the econ­omy from un­de­sir­able neg­a­tive im­pacts and serves to strengthen agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, prop­erty val­ues, em­ploy­ment cre­ation and food se­cu­rity.

As pol­i­cy­mak­ers move to im­ple­ment pro­pos­als on the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion, it is crit­i­cal that they com­pre­hend and nav­i­gate the com­plex­i­ties and in­tri­ca­cies that un­der­pin land re­form in South Africa.

The of­ten com­pet­ing and con­flict­ing de­mands for land re­quire a care­ful bal­anc­ing act from a pol­icy per­spec­tive.

The phe­nom­e­non of in-mi­gra­tion con­tin­ues to pose a se­ri­ous chal­lenge to the land re­form and ur­ban­i­sa­tion pro­cesses, par­tic­u­larly with the in­creas­ing de­mand for res­i­den­tial land in ur­ban cen­tres.

Lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are faced with these chal­lenges every day and Hu­man Set­tle­ments pro­grammes are com­pro­mised. The state ought to be in a bet­ter po­si­tion to mit­i­gate these of­ten con­flict­ing and com­pet­ing de­mands for land.

The chal­lenge of ac­cess to fi­nance that is fac­ing black farm­ers and pro­duc­ers is one com­plex­ity that gov­ern­ment has not be able to fully com­pre­hend since the dawn of democ­racy. A new land re­form pol­icy will have to re­con­fig­ure in­te­grated agri- cul­tural devel­op­ment fi­nance.

Of crit­i­cal im­por­tance will be the post-set­tle­ment sup­port given to ben­e­fi­cia­ries of land re­form. The re­con­fig­u­ra­tion of agri­cul­tural fi­nance should in­clude mo­bil­i­sa­tion of the en­tire fi­nan­cial sec­tor and state re­sources in sup­port of land re­form in its en­tirety.

There are var­i­ous in­stru­ments and ap­proaches avail­able to ad­vance land re­form and the re­cent de­vel­op­ments re­gard­ing ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion af­ford an ad­di­tional op­tion in a range of ex­ist­ing al­ter­na­tives. The con­sti­tu­tional re­view process ini­ti­ated by Par­lia­ment will pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for wide-rang­ing pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions on the mat­ter from a range of stake­hold­ers.

Al­ready a num­ber of op­tions have been bandied about for pol­i­cy­mak­ers to con­sider. These in­clude a re­con­sid­er­a­tion of the “use-it-or-lose-it” prin­ci­ple for the mil­lions of hectares of land ly­ing fal­low in com­mu­nal ar­eas, as well as of land be­long­ing to ab­sen­tee prop­erty own­ers.

There are also calls for the in­tro­duc­tion of a land cap of 12 000 hectares or two farms, as pro­posed in the Reg­u­la­tion of Land Hold­ings Bill, en­abling the state to then ex­pro­pri­ate sur­plus land.

An­other op­tion is the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land used for crim­i­nal pur­poses like the man­u­fac­tur­ing of drugs. The con­di­tions un­der which ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com- pen­sa­tion can work prac­ti­cally will no doubt bring about many more op­tions for leg­is­la­tors and reg­u­la­tors to con­sider.

Mean­ing­ful par­tic­i­pa­tion and con­tri­bu­tion to this process, es­pe­cially the shar­ing of ex­pe­ri­ences and ex­per­tise, is crit­i­cally im­por­tant. With an al­ready stated com­mit­ment to min­imis­ing dis­rup­tion to the sec­tor, cool heads are go­ing to be needed if we are go­ing to jointly build a land re­form pro­gramme that ramps up trans­for­ma­tion and devel­op­ment in a mean­ing­ful way and con­trib­utes to the sus­tain­able growth of the sec­tor.

PIC­TURE: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS

LAND MAT­TERS: Koos Mthimkhulu in­spects his crop at his farm in Senekal in the East­ern Free State.

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