SA has the tools to address land issue, must look at structural difficulties first - policy expert

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City Press
  • Professor Mandivamba Rukuni is of the view that South Africa has all the tools to address the land issue.
  • However, before tackling the land issue, SA must address the structural difficulties first, such as the middle income trap.
  • In 2017, the ANC adopted the policy of land expropriation without compensation at its 54th National Conference.

An academic with extensive experience in facilitating land policy-making in Sub-Saharan Africa has argued that South Africa has all the tools to address the land issue.

"South Africa has almost everything that it needs to address this stubborn issue of land.

"It has got the democratic institutions, structures, it has got fairly solid institutions, lots of legislation and yet this issue is still very difficult to address for South Africa," Professor Mandivamba Rukuni said on Wednesday.

Rukuni was speaking at a webinar titled "Towards coherent land policy-making in South Africa: Insights and Lessons" which aimed to delve into the challenging endeavour of land governance.

The dialogue, hosted by the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI), had a panel including Rukuni, independent land governance practitioner, Dr Margaret Rugadya and Land Reform and Policy Expert, Siyabu Manona.

While the programme of land reform began in South Africa in 1994 with the newly-elected government, it did spark a debate in 2017 when the ANC adopted the policy of "land expropriation without compensation" at its 54th national conference.

This kick-started a process in Parliament to amend section 25 of the Constitution which included inputs from the public.

This is a process that lobby group AfriForum challenged in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday, arguing that it had "several procedural defects" and should be declared "unconstitutional and void".

"This process obviously is defective and therefore cannot be regarded as a lawful process," AfriForum's head of policy and action, Ernst Roets, said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Expropriation without compensation is a policy that will affect everybody in the country, regardless of their race or economic status," he added.

READ | Amending Section 25 of the Constitution: Five questions answered

Rukuni argued that the way in which South Africa handled this land issue was arguably going to be the most important decisive factor in figuring out its desired future.

He said that without treating the country's structural difficulties, tackling the land issue was merely treating a symptom.

Among other things, he highlighted the political economy theory or the premise of South Africa being stuck in the middle-income trap.

He stated that if one had to go back into 20 to 30 years of data, South Africa's economic growth rate had stagnated to 2% or 3% to 4% at best.

"These are growth rates that won't transform the economy. The equilibrium rate of unemployment has never come down for more than a couple of decades and inequality is worsening.

"[And] if these are the indications of a middle income trap, political economy theories would also then add that as poverty and unemployment persists and as gaps in income and possibilities worsen, the chances of coming up with public policies that are going to, so to speak, look acceptable to a large percentage of the population, becomes less and less," he explained.

Rukuni argued that, in his opinion, getting out of this middle income trap was the single most important problem that needed to be addressed.

"I am simply saying that yes, land is still the most important tool asset South Africa has to transform its society to the desired future, but before that, you must deal with the structural difficulties; if we do not attack that with public policy we will be attacking the symptoms and not the problem," he concluded.

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