Govt plans to overhaul land reform

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cape Town - The Department of Rural Development and Land reform has proposed a major overhaul of the country's land restitution and redistribution policy to speed up land reform.

The move will require a change of the Constitution.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti revealed in parliament on Wednesday that the majority of the more than 6 million hectares of land that had been transferred to emerging farmers through the country's current land reform programme had not created any economic benefits for the thousands of new owners.

In some instances these farmers were better off without the land.

Delivering his department's budget vote in parliament, Nkwinti warned that unless the current form of the willing buyer and willing seller legislation is changed, South Africa will not achieve equitable access and sustainable land use. Also it will cost government an estimated R72 billion if it continues to pursue the willing buyer willing seller model.

"The current Land Turner System must be overhauled," Nkwinti said. The Department is proposing that state land be under lease-hold and private land be under freehold with limited extent while foreign ownership should be linked to productivity and partnership models with South African citizens.

Nkwinti said the system will be based on a categorization model informed by land use needs at the level of household, small holder and commercial farming.

The current land reform system had placed emphasis on hectares at the expense of development and food security.

"This has contributed to declining productivity on farms, decrease in employment in the agricultural sector and deepened poverty in the country side," Nkwinti said.

With the exception of the Democratic Alliance, the majority of political parties in Parliament welcomed Nkwinti's announcement, describing it as a step to liberating rural people. Cope's Mvume Dandala said the move will go a long way to address land equity and distribution. Both the ANC and Independent Democrats said land and rural life needed to be transformed without delay.