Land reform has 'derailed', but it's time to look at solutions - Hanekom

After 25 years of democracy there have been mixed results with land reform and the debate should now be about a search for solutions, Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom tells Fin24.

He has confidence in the land reform panel and adds that the process should be tackled carefully.

The issue of land and land reform is nothing new to Hanekom.

After the ANC was unbanned, he worked at its headquarters on land and land policies.

"By the end of about four years after the unbanning of the ANC and the first democratic elections, we had developed a whole set of comprehensive policies on land and land reform," he recalls.

What he saw as key at the time was that there was quite a lot of participation and input from a range of stakeholders including land activists, top academics and researchers.

"To my surprise, Madiba appointed me as minister of land affairs in 1994. Mid-way through my term it was merged with agriculture and I became minister of agriculture and land affairs," he says.

Hanekom has been in parliament ever since, including as deputy minister of science and technology, minister of science and technology and minister of tourism.

"Land reform has derailed a bit, but some of it has stood the test of time of what we did in those first few years. A lot was put in place in terms of laws and policies, including in agriculture. We reformed and liberalised the agricultural marketing system," he says.

As for expropriation in general, he says the Constitution sets out the factors that must be taken into account.

"I think expropriation is justified in certain cases - exactly what President Cyril Ramaphosa and the panel has said. Government must be prepared to expropriate land if it serves a certain purpose," he says and adds that it could even be without compensation or partial compensation if there is good justification for it.

"Research is also very important to understand the nuances of land reform - including in an urban setting. It is complex and easier said than done. A surveyor would be needed, for instance. You cannot transfer land unless it has clearly been surveyed. It involves a lot of work and is not a simple process," he explains.

In his view, doing land reform properly means doing it with the ability to show results as part of a multi-faceted programme.

"There is no one size fits all. The best scenario would be if land owners themselves came forward and said they will share the land. There are different possible options and a range of possibilities," he said.

At the same time, he admits that the government could perhaps have done more over the last 25 years to learn from the experiences of works and what doesn't in terms of land reform.

"There will never be a 100% success rate. Farmers go bust every day of the week. That is the reality of the farming business. Unfortunately, in land reform projects there is quite a high failure rate. That is why we should learn from the success stories," says Hanekom.

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