So the state doesn’t own it all

2013-09-08 14:00

An audit by the government has established that it owns just 14% of South Africa’s land.

The audit found that the state owns 17?million of the nation’s 122?million hectare land surface, while 79% is in the hands of private individuals or organisations.

But the audit was not able to establish who owns more than 8.3?million hectares of land.

Some land lobby groups have argued that the state should redistribute the land at its disposal before it considers expropriating privately-owned land.

This to address racially skewed ownership patterns.

The land audit, which was commissioned by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti in 2010, is an important part of the government’s land reform process.

The government hoped to use the information gathered to forge ahead with its plans to transfer 30% of agricultural land to black people by next year.

KwaZulu-Natal is the only province where there is more stateland than private land.

The bulk of the province’s stateland is held through the Ingonyama Trust – headed by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini – on behalf of communities.

This is South Africa’s first land audit.

It included the physical inspection of more than 1.15?million pieces of land throughout the nation between October 2011 and March this year.

Nkwinti said the report had been submitted to Cabinet and would soon go to Parliament before being made public.

He added that the way was paved for the second phase of the audit, which will investigate what each land portion is used for and who occupies it.

“Simultaneously with that, we have to establish the nationality and race of (the people who own) the privately-owned land, because those are important features,” he said. “They will indicate whether or not we are making progress in terms of the transferring of land from white to black.”

The minister said the next audit would also have to establish who owned the 8.3?million hectares that were unaccounted for during the first phase.

Stateland includes the sites on which more than 192?000 RDP houses are built, as the government is still the registered owner of those properties, despite the fact that low-cost housing beneficiaries have been occupying them for a long time.

Professor Gilingwe Mayende of the Central University of Technology in the Free State said the audit’s findings were a fair reflection of land ownership distribution.

“What is good about it is that it puts to rest a lot of speculation about what amount of land the state holds,” said Mayende, a former director-general in the then land affairs department.

“What will be important is to establish who owns what and which land is being utilised or is unutilised.”

Professor Ruth Hall, a land expert at the University of the Western Cape, said the extent of the land that remained unaccounted for showed that the state had lost track of its property.

Hall said the extent of publicly owned land in Eastern Cape was more likely to be around 24%, rather than the 9% reflected in the audit.

She said it was also “surprising” that 18% of Gauteng land could not be accounted for.

“The stateland audit got under way in earnest in 2002, yet it seems that 11 years later, it is in fact very much incomplete.

“This raises major questions over the direction of our land redistribution policy, which is now based on government buying up and then leasing out land,” said Hall.

“Do we have the kind of institutional capacity required to manage stateland?”

Who owns SA’s land?

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