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Will New Land Claims Build or Destroy South Africa?

06 March 2014, 07:37
Some eagerly embrace the opportunity to have their land returned to them whilst others say that this will be a major step towards South Africa becoming Zimbabwe. Either way, the reopening of land claims is a massive decision that will change our future, not only because of the R129-179 billion needed to settle outstanding land claims but because of the possible interference to our food supply and the power that the redistribution of ownership will bring.

However, as the new budget only sets aside R8.7 billion for land restitution over the next 3 years, it could be seen as an election ploy by an ANC fearing it will lose votes in the upcoming election. If so, the passing of the bill will promote further discord in our country.

The DA straddled an impractical middle line by supporting the amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill yet simultaneously criticising the ANC of empty promises.

The FF+ and ANC were far clearer on their positions. Here are their opposing statements claiming construction and deconstruction:

FF+ (Statement issued by Dr. Pieter Mulder, FF+ Leader and Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)
Verlede week, toe ons oor aspekte van hierdie wet moes stem, het die VF Plus daarteen gestem terwyl die ANC en die DA daarvoor gestem het. Hoekom het ons so gestem?

For a period of five years up to 1998, any person could institute a land claim. A total of approximately 80 000 (79 696) claims were instituted. These claims brought agricultural activities to a halt in large sections across the country. When a claim is instituted against land, one cannot sell the land. One does not expand or invest in the farm because the land can be lost tomorrow. One waits in uncertainty for years for a claim to be finalised. After ten years it was found in numerous cases that the claim was not valid.

The farmer’s loss as a result of the ten years of uncertainty was not repaid by the state. Today, sixteen years later, nearly 95% of these claims have been finalised. It has cost taxpayers millions. Fortunately the end is in sight and agriculture can return to normal – or so we thought. Now suddenly, before the election, the ANC comes with this Amendment Bill to re-open the land claims process from scratch. This paralyses agriculture for the next 20 years and brings about great uncertainty.

On the other hand the ANC is creating new expectations with a lot of people. Some 379 000 new land claims are likely to be submitted. This could cost the state about R179bn to settle. The restitution budget is roughly only R3bn a year. How then is the state to find the money to settle all these claims?

If all these new expectations cannot be fulfilled, it is a recipe for revolution. I want to predict that the ANC’s re-opening of land claims will in future turn against them.

Do we want to become a modern developed country or do we want to become just another under-developed country? It is in the best interest of all South Africans that we move forward to become a modern developed country capable of competing with the rest of the world. To succeed in this we must rethink the land issue. The ANC is continuing to nurse the notion that they can reverse the inevitable march toward an urban future. We are wasting valuable time and energy trying to restore people to their old ways. Ordinary South Africans want to go to cities and work in a modern economy.

Mondli Makhanya wrote: “It is not because black people cannot farm. It is because time has moved on from the time the apartheid government was carrying out its forced- removal policies.

The money and energy that is spent on getting people back into subsistence farming would be better used to create a strong class of black commercial farmers who actually do farm for commercial rather than sentimental reasons.”

South Africa needs more successful black commercial farmers. The Freedom Front Plus together with the majority of commercial farmers is more than willing to help new farmers to be successful. Mentorships and cooperation between experienced and new farmers are some of the ways in which to achieve this.

To merely chase hectares and add 400 00 new land claims to the department’s list will not solve the problems. We need food for the 70% urbanised population in the future. We cannot afford more fertile land becoming unproductive while the population is growing. Hungry people, running in the streets are the recipe for instability and the fall of governments.

ANC (Statement issued by the Office of the Chief Whip)
The Office of the Chief Whip welcomes the amendments of the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994 by the National Assembly, which represents another important milestone in restoring the dignity of the poor and reversing the legacy of apartheid.

The Act will re-open the lodgement of land claims for restitution for another period of five years, which is anticipated to close in 2019. The re-opening is a result of various categories of persons and communities whose lands was taken as a result of colonialisation and apartheid laws and were unaware of the restitution process that closed on 31 December 1998.

This Act will also give an opportunity to claim land to those who were dispossessed of land before the year 1913, such as the Khoi San communities, including those dispossessed through betterment planning schemes and not allowed to lodge their claims by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR).

This Act will help us reverse the legacy of apartheid and to accelerate the restoration of land back to the rightful owners. Colonialism and apartheid were rooted in the dispossession of land from the African people, the destruction of African farming and the super-exploitation of wage labourers, including farm workers and their families.

This re-opening of land claims for those who missed the deadline will be guided by a just and equitable principle of compensation as opposed to the willing buyer and willing seller system.

The system is anticipated to be faster and efficient because the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform will be using better and advanced technological systems; and there will be additional employees working on this project. This Act will also strengthen the office of the land claims court and it will be led by the Judge President of the High Court, who will be assisted by Judges of the High Court.

The African National Congress identified land reform and rural development as key priorities of our socio-economic transformation project. This legislation is firmly in line with our key priority area as identified in our 2009 Manifesto and the ANC’s 52nd conference.

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