Land act must be reversed, minister says

2012-10-23 22:38
Gugile Nkwinti (Picture: Beeld)

Gugile Nkwinti (Picture: Beeld)

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Pretoria - Loss of land, overpopulation, and overgrazing must be corrected, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said in Pretoria on Tuesday.

"We must reverse the legacy of the 1913 Land Act," he said at the first annual general meeting of the African Farmers' Association of SA (Afasa) this week.

The Native Land Act, also known as the Bantu Land Act, created a system of land tenure which prevented the majority of South Africa from owning land.

Nkwinti was commenting on a new land reform proposal made by President Jacob Zuma at the Afasa gala dinner on Monday evening.

The plan proposed a district-based approach to land reform and its financing.

Each district should establish a district land reform committee, which would involve all concerned parties.

This committee would be responsible for identifying 20% of the commercial agricultural land in the district and for giving commercial farmers the option of assisting in its transfer to black farmers.

Nkwinti said concentration of land ownership, where 35 000 farmers were responsible for 90% of the country's food production, was unsustainable.

"It's not politics, it's economics. You talk about growth in those circumstances. It is impossible."

He said deforestation and overuse of land caused loss of production.

"We must not only think of land changing hands between white and black."

Policies in the future might be drastically different.

"Tomorrow it might be all farmers [that need support], whether it be black or white."

Afriforum on Tuesday afternoon said it would appoint a task team comprising of legal experts, economists, and agricultural experts to study Zuma's proposal.

"Afriforum's caution about the latest land proposal stems from the possibility that the proposal could be used to divide land owners," spokesperson Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg said in a statement.

"Past experience has taught that the [African National Congress] tends to break agreements reached with it, and for this reason it is necessary to consider President Zuma's proposal with the necessary circumspection."

He said the big question remained whether ownership would vest with the state or with the new owners.

"This proposal could drastically restrict land ownership of South Africans."

Unrealistic

The Freedom Front Plus said it was unrealistic to offer 50% of market value for property, as proposed in the plan.

"It is impractical and will not resolve the problems," party leader Pieter Mulder said in a statement.

However, the proposal to delegate authority to the local community was a step in the right direction.

"The local agriculture community is in a much better position to make decisions about land that can be transferred. They also know the local community, in order to know who will be able to succeed as a farmer on such land."

He said the serious problem in land reform remained the department's total lack of capacity.

"Before this problem is not addressed, all new and improved proposals run the risk of failing."

Agri SA also responded to Zuma's new proposed land plan on Tuesday.

"While there is merit in some elements of this proposal - derived from Vision 2030 - they fail to ensure fairness to all parties," its president Johannes Müller said in a statement.

Agri SA agreed that local committees could be tasked to determine land reform needs per district, but it questioned the state's proposal to pay 50% of the market value for property, with other land owners in the district volunteering to cover the balance.

"The fiscus has the necessary funds and should make its full contribution in this regard, as stipulated in the Constitution," Müller said.

"To require such additional contributions from land owners in exchange for security of land ownership and attaining black economic empowerment status borders on extortion."

He said the proposal failed to take into account whether a farmer had the financial means to make such a contribution.

Zuma invited comment on the viability of the proposal, and Agri SA said it would respond in greater detail later.

Mller said the challenge was to refrain from merely criticising a well-intentioned proposal and to come up with workable solutions to a complex issue.

- SAPA
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