Maite talks tough on land

2018-03-18 06:03
Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. PHOTO: Leon Sadiki

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. PHOTO: Leon Sadiki

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Land Affairs Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has taken a tough stance on the land issue, saying she is prepared to use clauses already in the Constitution to expropriate land without waiting for the constitutional review committee to complete its work.

In an interview with City Press on Friday Nkoana-Mashabane said the shocking reality was that a mere 4% of land was in the hands of black people “in a place they call home”.

This was despite the government spending R50bn on land reform and restitution over many years.

She said work was under way to unlock access to water rights for sufficient farming.

“I was shocked that we spent so much money and got so little land back. It is the generosity of our spirit. But this is not racism,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

“This should not scare anybody. It should make all of us celebrate that we are now dealing with real original sin,” she said, as tension continues to heighten in the country over Parliament’s decision to set up a committee to look into amending the Constitution to effect land expropriation without compensation.

The resolution, recently adopted by the National Assembly after the motion was tabled by the Economic Freedom Fighters and supported by the governing party, has stoked racial tension.

Even foreign investors had been petitioned to pile pressure on government to abandon the policy.

Nkoana-Mashabane said there was no turning back.

In fact, she said, she would not wait until August for a report back from the constitutional review committee in Parliament but would forge ahead and use available clauses in the Constitution to take back land.

“The department [of land affairs] is not Parliament. Expropriation of land without compensation is encapsulated in section 25 of the Constitution, which also takes care of property rights.

“We are more than ready to make use of those mechanisms as derived from the Constitution we have at hand”.

By its own admission, the ANC’s land reform policy of “willing buyer, willing seller” had been a complete failure.

City Press first revealed findings of the department’s audit last month, which showed that blacks directly own only 1.2% of the country’s rural land and 7% of formally registered property in towns and cities.

Whites, on the other hand, directly own 23.6% of the country’s rural land and 11.4% of land in towns and cities.

Nkoana-Mashabane recalled a weekend drive to Mpumalanga which, she said, reduced her to tears.

“It reduced me to tears because of what I saw when I was young – then we spend R50bn to get 4% [of land]?” she said, showing her disappointment.

“I don’t think anyone would have qualms with the 4% who make up almost 80% of the population needing more land.

“I think that needs to be fixed. I think it’s in the interests of all South Africans to right the wrongs of the original sin. Ownership brings dignity. Ownership of land is what our people fought for and it hasn’t arrived,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

With so much work to do, she refused to waste time on the “toxicity” around the land debate and pointed out “there is no disagreement among sober-minded South Africans”.

“I really do not want to represent people I don’t know, I want to represent reality. I have a message to those who are vehemently opposed because they are not opposing the facts, they are just looking for some trouble somewhere: We will focus on that which is legal and just, which people sacrificed their lives for … South Africa belongs to all who live in it.”

Now aged 55, Nkoana-Mashabane is in a new portfolio after seven years in the international relations ministry, since her 2009 appointment.

But she is quick to point out that “there is absolutely nothing that I’m learning that I don’t know, or I haven’t lived”.

The land issue is not the only matter on her radar.

She intends fighting to ensure land comes with water rights.

Work had long begun with her predecessor and now Water and Sanitation Affairs Minister Gugile Nkwinti. Nkwinti previously raised alarm that water rights were allocated to individuals who leave with those rights once they sell the land.

Nkoana-Mashabane said the reason most land lay fallow was because owners had no access to water rights.

“So people get given back the land but can’t touch any water source without someone who has leased that water source in the JSE.”

She picked up this anomaly during her four-year stint as local government MEC in the Limpopo provincial government.

“I thought it was dealt with over time but it wasn’t,” she said.

“Water is a very scarce resource in our country. But even with the little that we have, I didn’t know that we moved from one sin to the other where it becomes a matter of ‘give them the land but take the water’. I think that needs to be corrected like yesterday.”

She urged young men and women to take up the opportunity to make agriculture fashionable, adding that everything starts with owning land.

“There is just so much economic accruement out of ownership besides agriculture.”

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