Zuma shifts on land reform

2013-02-17 10:00

President Jacob Zuma has sounded the death knell for the government’s market-based approach to land reform.

In his state of the nation address on Thursday, Zuma said government would now use a “just and equitable” model, instead of the “willing buyer, willing seller” approach, to reduce the time it takes to finalise land claims.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said they were going this route because the state was buying land in the public interest to correct past injustices.

“You can’t redress social injustice by using a market mechanism because those things don’t talk to each other. They conflict. That’s why we said let us establish the office of the valuer-general who intervenes on behalf of the state by setting norms and standards, and who then oversees land valuation... so that you keep the price of land affordable for the state to redress,” he said.

To speed up redistribution, Nkwinti said government would also devise a policy to limit the amount of land individuals or institutions can own. This would also affect foreign ownership.

The ANC wants government to bar foreigners from owning land, limiting them to long-term leases.

It is not clear, though, how much land is foreign-owned. Nkwinti said the land audit his department commissioned had only finished auditing state land in the former homelands, and the report would soon be tabled in Cabinet.

Land owned by government departments, and privately held land, was still being audited.

He said the amendment of the Restitution of Land Rights Act would not only allow the descendants of the Khoi and San to claim land beyond the 1913 cut-off date for restitution, but would help communities gain access to historical landmarks and heritage sites.

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