'Elite capture bigger impediment to land reform than compensation'

2018-03-14 17:23
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Cape Town – "Politicians are like vultures who swoop down to steal our land."

This was one of the comments from members of the public to the high-level panel appointed by Parliament to review legislation, said Dr Aninka Claassens. She served on the panel and presented its findings on land reform to the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform on Wednesday.

She slammed former minister of rural development and land reform Gugile Nkwinti (current minister of water and sanitation), saying he had breached his fiduciary and legal obligations by failing to uphold and enforce the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act.

She said this led to a situation where traditional leaders were allowed to act as though they owned the land.

She said black people were being dispossessed of communal land through mining rights and they were not being consulted.

The panel found alleged "elite capture of the land reform budget and farms".

Parliament 'in breach of Constitution'

There are also allegations that some land claims are prioritised at the expense of others.

"Sadly, we've seen the pace of land redistribution slow down," she said.

She said the high point of land redistribution was in 2008. The lowest point was 2015-16.

ALSO READ: Land claims: Parliament begins process to reopen window to lodge claims

She said there was a lack of legislation and that this enabled elites to capture land, resulting in a lack of transparency and accountability and making oversight difficult.

She said Parliament was in breach of the Constitution in not passing the relevant legislation.

The National Assembly has recently adopted a motion that tasks the Constitutional Review Committee with reviewing section 25 of the Constitution, also called the property clause, to consider allowing land expropriation without compensation.

Expropriation without compensation 'currently possible'

Asked by DA MP Ken Robertson whether she believes section 25 is an impediment to land reform, Claassens said it has not been.

She said a lack of political will, corruption and elite capture had been bigger stumbling blocks than compensation.

She said expropriation without compensation was possible under the Constitution in its current form.

ALSO READ:  Parliament's chances of making expropriation work doubtful - legal experts

She said the debate had however opened up the "hypocrisy of people claiming property rights are sacrosanct while black people's property rights" are violated.

She did, however, express her concern about state ownership of all land, as is currently the case with all minerals. She said the state ownership of minerals "has been a disaster". The EFF that put forward the motion on land expropriation without compensation has called for the state to own all land.

"Sure, a level of state regulation is incredibly important."

She said if the state owned all the land, people wouldn't have the rights to hold the state to account.

However, you can have property rights on state-owned land.

The high-level panel was led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe.

Read more on:    land expropriation

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