New land proposal open to debate

2010-03-19 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Joe Phaahla said on Wednesday farmers have “absolutely nothing to fear” about a proposal to declare agricultural land a national asset.

However, he said it “can’t be morally correct” that some farmers hold unused agricultural land when there is a “hunger” for land and land reform in South Africa.

Speaking to after meeting parliament’s public accounts committee — where the department came under fire for its fifth consecutive qualified audit — Phaahla said the proposal is nothing more than an invitation to debate the matter.

He said land reform needs to be addressed urgently, and complete reliance cannot be placed on the fiscus to achieve this.

“It [the proposal to declare all agricultural land a national asset] is not policy. It is not law. We are saying, let’s debate it …” Phaahla said.

He expects the Green Paper on the issue to be made public by the end of April.

The controversy surrounding the proposal centres on Section 25 of the Constitution, which safeguards the right to own property. It also protects individual rights for fair compensation for expropriated land, while it compels the government to ensure there is redress when it comes to land reform and redistribution.

Phaahla said the government has done well in enforcing the first two categories, but not so well when it comes to the redress issue.

He dismissed suggestions that the proposal is a political ploy to detract from government’s failure to manage the land reform process.

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