Thoko Didiza looks to break new ground on all things land, agriculture and rural development

As the new agriculture, land reform and rural development minister, Thoko Didiza, looks to dig her heels into the newly merged ministry, fast tracking land reform is high on her agenda. 

Speaking to News24 on Thursday, after she was sworn in at the Presidential Guesthouse in Tshwane, Didiza said she was surprised to get a call from President Cyril Ramaphosa, but was honoured to have been chosen for the portfolio. 

"I am honoured that the president has identified me and the team of two deputy ministers to work in this area of land and agriculture which is important for our economy and also for our social development as a country," said Didiza. 

Despite her surprise, Didiza is no stranger to the ministry. She was Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs between 1999 and 2006, during former president Thabo Mbeki's administration. 

Didiza also chaired Parliament's portfolio committee which looked at changing section 25 of the Constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation. 

With a mammoth task ahead of her, Didiza said she would be looking at ways to fast track land reform. 

"There is a guide in terms of the ANC manifesto on what we would like to see this government achieving in the next five years going forward.

"I will use that and also work with the department to see what things we need to prioritise and those that we may need to fast track in order to ensure that we have good agrarian reform in our country."

Didiza added that processes have already been put in place to address the delays in land reform.

"One of those is the panel set up, which looks at how we can unblock some of the issues that have caused the delay [in land reform]. There has also been work done in Parliament to look at the amendment of the Constitution.

"And I am saying collectively, with all of those, we will be able to fast track where we can, working with other departments where we can because, as you know, land delivery on its own solves one problem, but you also need to utilise that land productively, either for human settlements or for agricultural productivity."

The minister added that along with the help of her deputy ministers, Sdumo Dlamini and Mcebisi Skwatsha, they will be able to make their mark.

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