National enquiry to fast-track land reform

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cape Town – Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete says Parliament will soon embark on a national land enquiry aimed at accelerating the slow pace of the land reform process.

The Speaker said this when she tabled Parliament’s Budget Vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

She said out of the 50 debates that Parliament has held over the fifth term of Parliament, the land issue has been one of the most important topics in Parliamentary chambers.

According to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, government has restored nearly eight million hectares of land, which is 9.8% of the 82 million hectares of arable land in South Africa, the Speaker said.

“… Our people have long alerted us to their frustration on the matter of land reform and it is time that we listen to their voices. The most pressing of frustrations raised by our people is the slow pace of land reform and meeting targets for land redistribution,” Mbete said.

The Speaker said more needs to be done to ensure that the country has a law that provides direction and gives teeth to the promise of equitable access to land.

“Crucially, we must also repeal the 1975 law that prohibits sub-division of agricultural land,” she said.

She said section 25 (9) of the Constitution requires Parliament to introduce a law that secures the tenure of those whose current insecurity arises from past racial discrimination.

“Passing a law that adequately defends the tenure rights of rural people, who became victims of deals between greedy mining houses and some unscrupulous traditional leaders, thus becomes pressing,” she said.

She said Parliament’s urgent task is to stop the processes of dispossession by reviewing the laws and practices that enable them to happen.

“…To clarify and correct these and other weaknesses, as Parliament, we intend to embark on a major oversight process (land enquiry) on land to help accelerate the land reform process,” Mbete said.

Speaker calls for separation of power doctrine to be observed

The Speaker said, meanwhile, that the principle of separation of powers recognises the functional independence of branches of government.

“On the other hand, the principle of checks and balances focuses on the importance of ensuring that the constitutional order prevents the branches of government from usurping power from one another. In this sense, it anticipates and seeks to prevent the intrusion of one branch of government on the terrain of another,” she said.

Citing a statement of the Constitutional Court in the 2006 case of the Doctors for Life International versus Speaker of the National Assembly and Others, Mbete said that the Constitutional Court stated as follows: “The constitutional principle of separation of powers requires that other branches of government refrain from interfering in Parliamentary proceedings.

“This principle is not simply an abstract notion. It is reflected in the very structure of government. The structure of the provisions entrusting and separating powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government reflects the concept of separation of powers”.

Mbete said Members of Parliament have a responsibility to find solutions to the challenges facing all citizens.

“But we have to do so in a manner that acts as an example to the people we represent. With structures such as the Rules Committee, Chief Whips Forum, and the Committee of Chairpersons, we are well placed to meaningfully resolve disagreements and effectively execute our mandate without inviting the courts to encroach on our constitutionally protected terrain.” –