Illegal land grabs condemned in Parliament

(File, Jan Gerber, News24)
(File, Jan Gerber, News24)

Illegal land grabs were a hot topic in Parliament on Friday when the budget vote for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was debated.

"The current unlawful land occupation that we have observed across the country is a reflection of the frustration of our people with the pace of land reform," Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said.

She was taken to task about a statement by Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald, who said she had "justified the unlawful occupation of land".

Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Mcebisi Skwatsha implored South Africans to desist from illegal land invasions.

ANC MP Pumzile Mnguni said: "The land grabs have no space in our dispensation."

After the National Assembly passed a motion to consider amending the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation, Parliament's Joint Constitutional Review Committee set up a process to look into the matter.

"While the Parliamentary process unfolds, the department will continue to advance land reform through existing programmes of land restitution, land redistribution and land tenure reform, using the existing constitutional provisions to argue for limited compensation, including in cases such as the return of land to labour tenants and farm dwellers," said Nkoana-Mashabane.

"We will continue to use the full potential of existing laws to fast-track rural development and land reform," she said.

Opposition MPs criticised the department for the slow pace of land reform, especially with regards to the transfer of ownership.

The DA took up the cause of the people of Gwatyu in the Eastern Cape, whose Communal Property Association wasn't registered by the department. The DA wants the department to transfer the ownership 42 000ha of land across 88 farms to the people who have lived there for generations.

The DA also staged a picket outside Parliament before the debate, and leaders of Gwatyu attended the debate.

DA MP Thandeka Mbabama held a poster at the podium, which read "Justice through land ownership", during her speech.

UDM MP Mncedisi Filtane said the department's budget means nothing if people don't own the land.


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