Minister moves to calm land reform fears

2017-03-28 12:53
Gugile Nkwinti (File, Netwerk24)

Gugile Nkwinti (File, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti has said the country needs clarity on the ruling party's current stance on land, and that the ANC is still guided by the provisions in the Constitution.

Nkwinti held a media briefing in Parliament on Tuesday to update the country on a bill to establish a land commission, as prescribed by the regulation of agricultural land holdings bill.

He said the differences within the ruling party with regards to expropriation without compensation only represent "aspirational ideas", for the purposes of debate.

"This is an aspiration," Nkwinti said. "This is not policy of the ANC. It is one of the aspirations, saying this is what we are going to take to the policy conference in June."

President Jacob Zuma was one of those who supported the idea expropriation without compensation, declaring it publicly at the opening of the House of traditional leaders earlier this month.

Nkwinti said the party will debate the idea at its June conference, and will only vote on it at its elective conference in December.

Until then, the ANC's official policy is still the resolution it adopted at its 2012 Manguang conference, he said.

What is in the new bill?

The bill itself is currently open for public comment, and citizens are invited to engage with it by April 17.

It proposes the establishment of a land commission to help with the transfer of agricultural land, in line with the Constitution.

It also seeks to limit the amount of agricultural land any individual owner can hold beyond a certain threshold, regardless of colour.

There are three categories: small, medium and large-scale commercially viable land, each with their own threshold.

Those who already own land bigger than the respective thresholds, will be compensated for the extra portion according to "just and equitable" means.

The remaining portions will be transferred back to the State, or converted into a lease agreement.

A change in ANC policy will also not affect the bill and the establishment of a land commission, only the portions relating to expropriation with or without compensation.

The bill will also establish an online registry to save costs, and for citizens to see "who owns the land in the country".

ANC MPs right to reject EFF motion

Nkwinti said ANC MPs were 100% right to reject the Economic Freedom Fighters motion in Parliament this month to change section 25 of the Constitution.

MPs were acting on the party's current stance, and not on the "aspirational ideas" mooted within the party.

The EFF were "smart" and playing politics with the motion, knowing full well that the ANC's current policy did not agree with expropriation without compensation.

When asked how he personally felt about land reform, Nkwinti said he agrees with the Constitution.

"I stand on the constitutional provisions in section 25. That's why I called this meeting," he replied.

"I wanted to clarify that there is no doubt that this bill will be constrained by section 25 of the Constitution: just and equitable redistribution."

Willing buyer, willing seller

He also restressed that the idea of "willing buyer-willing seller" is not in the Constitution, but does represent the realities of land reform in the country.

He said going forward, land valuers must not only look at the land's market value for potential redistribution, as there are four other criteria currently being ignored.

They are: the history of opposition; any contribution by the State to development of land; what it's used for today; and what purpose acquisition may have.

Thus far, market value dominated the transfer of land in the country. Universities needed to teach future valuers how to assess land beyond just its market value, he said.

Nkwinti added that once land is transferred, his department has no power on what the new owners do with the land, saying it is not in government's mandate.

Read more on:    gugile nkwinti  |  land  |  land reform  |  agriculture

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