Johannesburg - Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti is forging ahead with his controversial policy proposals to seize portions of farmland without compensation – despite not having a mandate from his party, the ANC, City Press reports.
City Press reported in April that Nkwinti’s department was mulling the seizure of half of each farm to then transfer the ownership of that land to people who had lived and worked on it for a stipulated number of years.
The draft policy, entitled Strengthening Relative Rights of People Working the Land, is part of government’s attempt to protect farm workers from evictions by farm owners after long service and speed up the lacklustre rate of land reform.
Even though the state will pay for the 50% portion that goes to the labourers, the money will not be pocketed by existing farmers.
Instead, the draft policy document says it “will go into an investment and development fund to be jointly owned by the parties constituting the new ownership regime”.
“The fund will be used to develop the managerial and production capacity of the new entrants to land ownership to further invest on the farm as well to lay out [sic] people who wish to opt out of the new regime,” says the document.
An ANC national executive committee member said he and some of his fellow leaders were unaware of Nkwinti’s mooted policy proposals as they did not come from the party’s conference resolutions.
“These proposals come from government [not the ANC], and they were discussed in government,” he said, adding that the resolutions out of the ANC’s 2012 Mangaung conference only referred to the reform of land tenure.
Another ANC leader said the proposals were unlikely to “pass constitutional muster if challenged as they amount to expropriation without compensation”.
He added that they went against what government has proposed in policy documents like the National Development Plan.
The Mangaung conference had taken the position that land should be bought at a just and equitable price in line with the Constitution. However, the conference did give a thumbs-up to expropriation of land without compensation if that land was “acquired through unlawful means or used for illegal purposes”.
No ANC policy
Zizi Kodwa, the national spokesperson of the ANC, said there was no ANC policy position on the mooted 50% share equity scheme for farm dwellers.
“We are still awaiting an understanding of what exactly this means from the ministry that made the proposal,” he said.
Critics of the plan have said it appeared government was trying to outflank Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which fashions itself as a militant organisation with radical proposals on the economy and the expropriation of land without compensation. The EFF received 6.35% of the vote in this year’s national election.
Post-Polokwane, the ANC has agitated for the centrality of Luthuli House in making major policy decisions as it was felt that during the presidency of Thabo Mbeki, government had dictated policy instead of the ANC.
Even though the ANC in Parliament shot down the DA’s attempts to have the draft policy debated by the full sitting of Parliament, Nkwinti attended the governing party’s caucus meeting on Thursday where the matter was discussed.
'Not going against the ANC's stance'
An ANC MP who attended the meeting said Nkwinti had discussed the draft policy “extensively” and explained that it had even gone to Cabinet.
However, he denied that Nkwinti’s position went against the ANC’s stance on the issue.
“The minister is bringing [up] new ideas. The proposal is not different from [Small Business Development] Minister Lindiwe Zulu’s ministry – it did not come from any conference.
“Government is introducing innovation. You wouldn’t want to say let’s go to a conference each time you are innovating,” he said.
Motsepe Matlala, the president of the National African Farmers’ Union, said it was difficult to tell who Nkwinti was targeting with this land reform proposal as it seemed to apply to both black and white farmers.
Matlala said his organisation would study the proposals and make a submission.
Nkwinti’s spokesperson, Mtobeli Mxotwa, said the proposals were in line with ANC conference resolutions, which he said allowed for a limit on the amount of land individuals could hold.
“This thing [also] comes from the Freedom Charter, which says land shall be shared among those who work it,” he added.
Mxotwa denied that the proposals amounted to expropriation without compensation, saying that paying the farmer for the land would be a form of “double-dipping” because the farmer’s portion of the land would be developed by government through the farm’s life span.