Land reform to promote economic growth, transformation

Friday, August 31, 2018

While the land debate continues throughout the country, government has maintained that the expropriation of land without compensation will ensure land is equitably distributed according to need, boost agricultural production and food security while promoting economic transformation.

Land ownership will be an economic asset for the millions of South Africans who were previously dispossessed of their homes under apartheid laws.

In an interview with SAnews, Acting Director General in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform Rendani Sadiki, said if the process is carried out correctly, land expropriation without compensation would result in economic growth and everyone would have the security of tenure.

“If we can give people the means of production through the land - we can actually drive the price of food down.

“We have quite a lot of land which has not been saturated. But if we take this pie and share it, we could actually also grow the agricultural sector, create more jobs while bringing food security,” Sadiki said.

People would further have access to use the land productively, said Sadiki, who said new areas could be explored in production processes, agro-processing and value chains which would provide equal opportunities to all South Africans as opposed to only a select few which is the case presently.

She allayed fears from investors by reiterating that South Africa is a constitutional country. “It is business as usual and we continue to work within the ambit of the law.”

Government is proposing a review of Section 25 of the Constitution which will pave the way for the expropriation of land without compensation due to the fact that despite the country being 23 years into democracy, many South Africans remain dispossessed of land.

“We had a target that by at least 2014 we would have redistributed 30% of the land, but we have only managed to redistribute 13%,” said the DG who attributed this slow progress to the high cost of restitution in which government has spent over R40 billion on just 8.4 million hectares of land.

The department has settled 80 664 claims benefitting 2.1 million beneficiaries at the cost of R40 billion inclusive of financial compensation to beneficiaries.

“The process has been slow and we felt like if we continue with this trajectory, we will never bring equity as stipulated in the Constitution.”

Another challenge has been the resistance to bring redress by the current owners of land which has made it difficult for government.

A land audit done by government revealed that only 13% of the land is in the hands of government, about 87% of the land is in the private sector while black South Africans still lag far behind and own only 4% of the land.

“We have fallen flat on the requirements of our Constitution that give impetus that there should be land [shared] equitably across the board. But whether the country needs an amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution will be answered by the Parliamentary review process…”

Responding to comparisons by lobby groups between South Africa and Zimbabwe and Venezuela and their view that the expropriation of land without compensation in South Africa will devastate the economy, Sadiki said such comparisons are misleading.

She said South Africa is known for its strong Constitution and had a government that sought to uphold the rule of law.

“We will never deviate from being a constitutional country. I don’t see the economy collapsing because we would be following the rule law in implementing. All the policies and programmes of government are embedded within the provisions of the Constitution, including the land reform.”

Sadiki was of the view that lobby groups were intentionally misinforming the general public.

“Those that are spreading the lies are intentional because they want to keep the status quo. All that has gone out has been lies because they do not want transformation. They have the narrow interest that they are trying to protect at the expense of the whole country.”

She said for example, government has not once expropriated any land without compensation.

“Where we have expropriated, it has been through the provisions of the current law. We have never and we do not intend to expropriate any land without compensation until there is a law that is passed.

“We know the process of passing the law in this country, there are public consultations and that is what government is currently doing through the parliamentary process.”

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. –