Cabinet approves most land reform proposals from presidential advisory panel

Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza. Picture: Sarel van der Walt
Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza. Picture: Sarel van der Walt
Foto: Sarel van der Walt

Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza announced on Thursday that Cabinet has approved 60 of 73 recommendations in the land advisory panel’s report, with nine recommendations rejected and three noted.

She said many of the recommendations overlapped with work already under way.

The Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture was headed by Vuyokazi Mahlati. President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the 10-member panel in September 2018 to analyse and provide proposals on a broad range of land and agricultural issues to help address inequalities.

The panel was established in the wake of debate over expropriation of land without compensation, and the report provides a detailed analysis of a wide-range of issues.

Cabinet dismissed the suggestion by the panel that government create a Land Reform Fund as well as an Agrarian Reform Agency, with the view that there may not be merit for it.

The proposal to introduce land tax was also rejected as Cabinet said there was an undertaking by the Ministry of Finance that the land tax be incorporated in the property rates legislation as well as capital gains tax.

The cabinet opposed the review of the Office of the Valuer-General (OVG) and its function in line with the Property Valuations Act to ensure that the compensation determined in the event of expropriation for land reform purposes is just and equitable.

“The view of the government is that what the panel recommends is what is the status quo currently. The OVG as well as its functions are in line with the Property Valuations Act. Currently the determination of what is just and equitable is the matter of debate in the parliamentary process on the amendment of Section 25,” Didiza said.

The proposed New Green and White paper on Land has been put on the back burner as it might take longer to address some of the immediate challenges, and therefore is a long-term program.

“The view of the government is that the current White Paper does include land administration. However, what may need to be expedited is a unified and administrative system and where possible the amendment of the Deeds Registry Act to include the record of informal land rights in the former homeland and communal areas,” she explained.

There was a suggestion that a National Land Rights Protector be formed for managing higher-level conflict, but this was disapproved seeing that the country already has Land Courts.

The panel will be further making recommendations regarding an in-depth assessment into the conditions for the application of land ceilings.

“Consideration should be given on the imposition of land ceilings to limit the total area of land that any one individual or company may own, so as to limit and reverse the trends towards concentration of land ownership, which is antithetical to land reform. Such ceilings must be varied across agro-ecological zones,” Didiza reiterated.

Didiza on Thursday said that despite concerns by the panel regarding the White Paper on Land Policy of 1997, Cabinet said it was still adequate in its application.

Didiza said the document was suitable because it appreciated that land reform not only covers agrarian reform but addresses a variety of other needs.

“It covers broad land administration framework as well as defines approaches for land reform to address unequal land ownership patterns in our country. It also creates the framework for tenure reform policy,” according to the minister.


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