Research estimates that unused state-owned land parcels in SA suitable for redistribution add up to about 1.2 million hectares, or 60% of the size of the Kruger National Park, according to Theo Boshoff, head of legal intelligence at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz).
He said this research was presented by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform's Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Branch at a recent colloquium hosted by the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform.
"One should bear in mind that all of this land (1.2 million hectares) can be transferred without displacing any current owners, without having to resort to expropriation and with minimum costs, as the land is already owned by the state," Boshoff commented in his personal capacity in the latest Agbiz newsletter.
"This analysis was conducted using GIS mapping and satellite imagery to determine the land use. According to the department, the next step is to get feet on the ground to verify what (if anything) is actually taking place on the ground."
Although there are actually an estimated 2.9 million hectares of state land classified as unused, Boshoff points out that much of this land is situated in extremely remote areas in the Northern Cape - either too far from services to be viable human settlements, or too barren to sustain large communities undertaking agricultural enterprises.
"Since the very beginning of the expropriation without compensation debate, a great deal of emphasis was placed on the need to redistribute unused state land," Boshoff said.
"However, exactly what is meant by 'unused' state land and how much of that truly exists has been a mystery...For the time being, land which is formally registered in the name of a national or provincial department as well as a municipality seemed to be included."
He said it was unclear whether land owned by state entities such as universities, research institutions and other bodies created by legislation were considered or not.
"Furthermore, it does not appear as if state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, Transnet or Telkom were counted, and perhaps rightly so, as these are companies that happen to be owned by the state, but still need to balance their books. So, it might not be appropriate to include their assets," said Boshoff.
In total, it was presented that the state owns roughly 25.2 million hectares of land in South Africa.
"The vast majority of this land is required for legitimate public purposes and should therefore not be eligible to be redistributed. These include national parks, water catchment areas, military training and testing grounds, land occupied by dams and highways," said Boshoff.