Beyond electioneering: 5 points SA needs to consider on the land issue

There is a need to explore a multi-pronged approach to addressing land reform. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images
There is a need to explore a multi-pronged approach to addressing land reform. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images

Now that the electioneering and sloganeering are out of the way, the real work begins.

One of the most immediate tasks that the new Parliament must tackle is to work on the constitutional amendments that effect expropriation of land without compensation, to make them more explicit.

Linked to this is the need to drive initiatives aimed at providing much-needed clarity and certainty on some of the current policies and areas where further legislative amendments or new legislation related to land reform should be implemented.

While the focus on addressing the big land question remains important, it is equally important to acknowledge that constitutional changes alone will not resolve the current challenges with land reform, and neither will speeding up land reform in one fell swoop just to keep hope alive.

The process must be done expeditiously and judiciously, and if done right it can go a long way towards giving closure, inching closer to the ideal of creating a conducive environment where everyone has an opportunity to thrive and prosper.

As we shift our gaze from talk to action, consideration of the following points is crucial to the acceleration of land reform:

1. Restitution

The restitution processes must be simplified and made more efficient. This includes instituting mechanisms to effectively deal with intracommunity conflicts, putting systems in place to manage complex claims, quicker ways of managing financial settlements, regulating community property institutions and improving human and other resources required to make the process efficient.

2. Redistribution

Procedures must be made more transparent to bring integrity into the system.

3. Tenure reform

Must urgently address the rights of millions of families living in communal areas. This is important to not only formalising and strengthening the rights of these communities but to also make it possible to attract much-needed investments to so that we can create jobs, income and skills.

4. Acquisition balance

We need to balance the acquisition of land with productive use of it so that we can save existing jobs and create new ones. Both pre and post-settlement support must be expanded.

In this regard, partnering with the private sector will be the most immediate way to address this challenge.

All stakeholders must begin to explore innovative ways to fund land reform, instead of relying solely on the government to it.

5. Leverage existing case studies

Instead of reinventing the wheel, government needs to use existing case studies to learn what was achieved, what worked and what did not work.

In this regard, industry players, non-governmental organisations and other entities can share their success stories and we can leverage these case studies to map out a way forward for land reform and replicate those learnings.

Furthermore, we will need to foster a shared vision in order to sustain commitment and will need to communicate more effectively and manage community expectations.

It is noteworthy to mention that there is a need to explore a multi-pronged approach to addressing land reform.

Such an approach should, among other things, acknowledge the different needs and dynamics of restitution, redistribution and tenure reform, draw on public and private resources to address the current challenges, and explore innovative ways of financing land reform on the restored land.

Peter Setou is chief executive of the Vumelana Advisory Fund, a non-profit organisation that was established in 2012 to help beneficiaries of the land reform programme to put their land to profitable use by establishing commercially viable partnerships between communities and investors

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July 2020

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