Govt wants land audit

2010-04-29 18:09

Johannesburg - The government wants a complete audit of the country's land, Rural Development and Land Reform Deputy Minister Joe Phaahla said on Tuesday.

"We will present a green paper... on establishing a land commission to do a full audit of state and private land," he told a Constitutional symposium in Johannesburg.

A fellow panellist argued during the symposium, that the failure to conduct such an audit had contributed to the country's slow land reform.

Phaahla blamed land reform weaknesses on the application of the law and not the law itself.

"We are grateful to the crafters of our Constitution... the fundamental principles are there (in the constitution). Really, what is left for us is to implement," he said.

BMF takes issue with Constitution

However, the Black Management Forum (BMF) took issue with sections of the Constitution, among them those dealing with property rights.

BMF president Jimmy Manyi said that while these provided that "fair value" be paid when appropriating land, this had come to mean "market value" and had resulted in the government paying exorbitant amounts.

Phaahla said the question was not the adequacy of the Constitution but whether the government had "maximised" the opportunities presented by constitutional provisions.

Agreeing with Phaahla, AgriSA representative Annelize Crosby said the property clause had not been adequately tested in court.

Duma Nokwe Group of Advocates representative Vuyani Ngwalwana said the mechanisms needed for land reform were already in place in the country's legal framework.

Interpretation of legislation

The problem was the "unduly onerous interpretation" of legislation by both the government and the legal fraternity.

"I think... the interpretation of legislation has to go hand-in-hand with transformation of the judiciary.

"The way you grew up informs your thinking," he said.

Earlier, during a discussion on the constitution and socio-economic transformation, another advocate Thabane Masuku said interpretation was key in allowing the constitution to serve its intended purpose.

"I think the biggest problem is how we get institutions to give effect to the constitution... to interpret it in a way that it has an impact on the socio-economic conditions of the people."

In order for the Constitution to work as intended, the country required a judiciary that was transformed, he said.