Land must be given back fast

2011-07-09 16:39

The expropriation of land without compensation is a possibility in future if the current leadership fails to speed up land reform, says Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti.

Speaking to City Press after handing back 1 060 hectares of land to the communities of Mampuru and Ditsebe in the rural areas outside the Limpopo town of Groblersdal, Nkwinti said it was important to be “realistic” about the call of the ANC Youth League for the forced takeover of land to speed up redistribution.

He said he was not worried about the ANCYL’s call for a change of tack in land reform policy.

“I spoke to (ANCYL president) Julius (Malema) on the Monday of the week after the conference.

“Julius says we as the youth league put the matter the way we think we should put it, and says the minister will have to find a way of putting it in government language. That’s my job and he was correct.

“Remember these are young people who are also concerned about their future. They are actually saying to us: think about it, it’s going to be us tomorrow, what are you going to leave for us.

“I think it’s very important that it happens now because you have people in the ANC government and the ANC itself who still have credibility amongst the people,” he said.

The department’s land redistribution programme has been moving slowly over the past few years.

So far, only 7.4 million hectares of the 25 million hectares of farm land the department aims to distribute by 2014 has been transferred to previously disadvantaged South Africans.

It is not clear how much land is in the State’s hand, except to say the state controls 1.5 million parcels of land through the three tiers of government and parastatals.

Nkwinti has ordered an audit of state land to establish how many hectares the state controls.

Experts differ on the reasons why land reform has moved at a snail’s pace.

Ruth Hall, professor at the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Poverty and Land and Agrarian Studies, said there was a need to debate the role of the state in holding land and what it would take to manage land acquired by the state.

“Since the pro-active land acquistion strategy was introduced in 2006, government has bought 629 129 hectares (of land) to hold and make available on a leasehold basis, at a cost of over R3.7-billion.

“Most of the farms acquired do not have beneficiaries listed in the government database, with the result that only 370 households are cited as having access to this land.

“Big questions arise: who is getting the land? How much land can each family get?

How much money is reasonable to spend on each family?

“How much of the land acquired has not been allocated to anyone? How many are managing to pay for their leases? What is happening when they can’t? Is the leasehold option working or are alternatives needed?”

Gilingwe Mayende, head of research at Walter Sisulu University’s Centre for Rural Development, said a more radical approach to land reform was necessary as ­“failure to do so postpones the ­inevitable”.

Mayende said the Constitution needed to be amended to remove the requirement for compensation for land, as it was “a gross historical injustice and an unfair burden on the state.

“A trajectory that will land us in a situation similar to Zimbabwe must be avoided at all costs,” he said.

This week, Nkwinti signed off the long-awaited land reform green paper. The proposed policy will now go before cabinet for ­approval

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