Pace of land reform weak and pathetic, says Deputy Public Works Minister

Jeremy Cronin. (File)
Jeremy Cronin. (File)

Durban – The pace and quality of land reform in South Africa has been weak and actually pathetic, Deputy Minister of Public Works Jeremy Cronin said on Wednesday.

He ascribed the "pathetic" pace of land reform to factors like weak policy, corruption, lack of will and a lack of capacity.

“We are 26 years into our democracy and yet we know the crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality remains deeply in our society. I believe in non-racist, inclusive nationalism and not in the flare-up of racist nationalism,” he told delegates at the annual conference of the South African Property Association (Sapoa) in Durban.

“In many respects the land expropriation debate in SA is an alibi for other issues, but also provides the opportunity to have a patriotic discussion about land and property issues in general. There is a broader social context to the debate and also a factional internal ANC context. Land reform needs to be an 'all of government' approach.”

He also feels that cities can play a very important role in being drivers of transformation.

“The debate can be turned into an opportunity rather than mutual destruction. Restitution is proving to be hugely problematic and claims take forever to settle. It is estimated that it will take another 34 years just to settle the current land claims,” said Cronin.

He commended Sapoa for its recent report on property reform. Sapoa agrees that clear steps must be taken to accelerate land reform and redistribution. He also agrees with Sapoa that section 25 of the Constitution provides all the effective mechanisms to achieve land reform.

In his view, it is not necessary to amend the Constitution as he regards section 25 as flexible enough.

"We must be careful to just say vacant land per se should be expropriated and it is inappropriate to say commercial property is unproductive,” said Cronin.

"We need both a market led and government led approach to the issue. We cannot say we are serious about land reform and BEE. Just leaving it up to market forces will not get us there. In my view the bill of rights and especially the property clause (in the Constitution) are not obstacles to effective land reform – agrarian and urban."

He added that expropriation with or without compensation is only one and not remotely the major means to achieve just, equitable, sustainable and "absolutely necessary" land reform.

"We need a clear legislative indication of who should be the major beneficiaries. Land reform requires financial, infrastructural and institutional support," he said.

  • Fin24 is a guest of Sapoa at its annual conference.

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