Land reform laws pending in SA

2010-02-15 21:57

Cape Town - South Africa will introduce new legislation to quicken reforms which have left the bulk of land still in white minority hands, Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti  said on Monday.

He said current legislation was "admirable" but had failed to unlock an apartheid-era divide that saw whites owning 87% of the nation's farmland.

"Sadly... it is too fragmented to effectively address the centuries-old land question in South Africa", Nkwinti told Parliament.

Draft legislation will soon be introduced to Parliament, he said.

"We are opening a debate and a discussion on the need to review the current land tenure system as a whole."

Land reform is a chief priority for President Jacob Zuma who pledged in his State of the Nation address last week to upgrade poor shantytowns and to hand land to at least half a million households by 2014.

The issue has become increasingly contentious in southern Africa after Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's land reforms saw about 4 000 white farmers lose their land in an often violent campaign.

Unlike neighbouring Zimbabwe, South Africa has focused on a willing buyer, willing seller programme and the restitution of land taken from blacks. A controversial bill on land expropriation was shelved last year.

Nkwinti warned in October that the free-market approach was not set in stone, saying the government could not continue to afford high land prices.

"We cannot continue to slavishly rely on the principle of willing-buyer willing-seller, as we have done in the last 15 years," he said at the time.

"We will continue to explore new measures that will make (sure) the process is cost efficient within the bounds of the law."