Land reform won’t be a slow process, says minister

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Maite Nkoana-MashabanePHOTO: Ndileka lujabe
Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Maite Nkoana-MashabanePHOTO: Ndileka lujabe

It’s been more than a month since she took over the portfolio, but “nobody had clarified what ‘land reform and rural development’ really meant”.

And it appeared that the minister of rural development and land reform, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, wasn’t going to do that either.

During a speech at a two-day land reform dialogue in Johannesburg that aimed to explore the issues around land reform and agriculture policy, Nkoana-Mashabane jumped from one seemingly unrelated topic to the next.

What she did promise, though, was that land distribution was going to happen quickly.

“The Constitution and Section 25 is not new, it’s old. We’re just talking implementation. The slowness is just in implementation. [Land redistribution is] not going to be a slow process at all,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

The land debate has been a hot topic of late, and has seen political parties in a headlock on whether land expropriation without compensation was a feasible solution.

What precipitated the land reform debate, said Nkoana-Mashabane, was the need to free South Africans “from the discomfort and the injustice of our past”.

It cannot be business as usual 24 years after our freedom, she said.

“We are not necessarily short of money, of course we need more money, but we can all work together to [correct] the original sin of making blacks feel like they’re second-class citizens in this country in 2018, as we celebrate the centenary of Madiba and Albertina Sisulu,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

She said that, more than a month into her new portfolio, no one had really clarified what land reform and rural development really meant.

Without really clarifying them herself, she went on to speak about the global economy, making agriculture fashionable again, and threw in saturated Nelson Mandela quotes here and there.

“The two major economies are going on as if nothing has happened. This can’t be. Can we deal with the cardinal sin, that of exclusion of majority of our people in the actual ownership of assets? Can we empower them by giving them water first? Secondly, can we support them with the other inputs to do what they do best? Can we also open space in this so-called first economy? How do we make agriculture fashionable again and bring our youth here?”

On food security, Nkoana-Mashabane said the main aim was “to bring people into the food chain”.

“It shouldn’t be that the produce of black people is running parallel to substandard goods and it’s sold in chesa nyamas only, but cannot enter the main economy and we call it food security.

“These are some of the things that don’t need no Constitution, but all of us to have the willingness to deal with it,” she said.

Bringing the discussion back from confusion following the minister’s address, attorney Bulelwa Mabasa from Werksmans Attorneys, argued that the Constitution wasn’t the issue, rather that policy needed to be aligned with it.

“I do not take issue with what’s in the Constitution. The fundamental error that has happened is that the Constitution is yet to be applied ... Looking at the Constitution to fix policy is a bit flawed as the Constitution is yet to see its day in its full application.

“Restitution by design places an onerous burden on claimants to have knowledge about who their descendants were. The support in that department is so woeful; the funding of restitution has dwindled,” she said.

“Restitution is not designed to favour the majority. We’re seeing so many policy changes, but we cannot focus just on agriculture because that doesn’t include homelessness and urbanisation.

“Even if we were to theoretically amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation, it still would not address the issue that institutions that are built to achieve this are incapable of doing so because the allocation from the national budget is the fundamental problem. It’s not the Constitution that needs to be amended to get us there,” Mabasa said.

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