Johannesburg - Private land ownership is a serious problem in South Africa, Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said on Thursday.
“This privately-owned land is a serious problem,” he told delegates at the start of a three-day national land tenure summit in Boksburg, on the East Rand.
“There are people who own more than 30 000 hectares of land in this country, spread across the country or concentrated in one area.
“How do you explain that morally? It is morally indefensible.”
The summit, which includes national officials from the department, traditional leaders, and cultural groups, is discussing land reform resolutions made at the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung in 2012.
Delegates are expected to discuss the resolutions before they are sent for implementation.
Nkwinti said the department would use political variables in its decision making if land owners did not propose suggestions based on economic variables.
“We want to correct a particular South African historical problem,” he said.
He said the ruling party could not continue asking the public to vote for the African National Congress every five years, when they saw no real change in their lives.
“It cannot be that the worker will work forever and at the end of their time on earth, have nothing to show for it. It is not right, it cannot be right.”
He said it was expected that the department would face setbacks in its aim to redistribute land, but it was a short-term challenge to a long-term solution.
“It cannot be that we wait another 100 years.”
According to a preliminary audit conducted by the department, 79 percent of South Africa's land was privately-owned. The race and nationality of the owners was not yet clear.
Nkwinti said instruments used to encourage people to declare their land ownership were not yet in place. This would be clearer after the process of land redistribution had begun.
The “use right” of title deeds needed to be legalised so owners could use them as collateral, he said.
“It is happening already, but we want to entrench it into law.”
He said loan sharks who took over their clients' homes were breaking the law. It was a growing problem.
He urged traditional leaders in rural areas to help the department by being moral guides in their areas.
He criticised poorly-run municipalities.
“The problem is poor rural municipalities who do not exercise authority over the land to ensure by-laws are abided by.”
Government had agreed not to sell any state-owned land, but to rather lease it out.
“We want to make sure we leverage our ownership of that land.”
The African Farmers' Association of SA had proposed that when land was redistributed, the new owners be given government support for five years.
If the land owner failed to make the land profitable and sustainable in that time they would lose it.
Nkwinti asked those present to think about the “use it or lose it” principle and to say whether or not they agreed with it.
“We want proposals from the sector and others. Discuss it because after this summit we will implement.”
The land policy document proposes that farm labourers assume ownership of half the land on which they are employed.
This would be “proportional to their contribution to the development of the land, based on the number of years they had worked on the land”.
The “historical owner” of the farm “automatically retains” the other half.
According to the policy proposals, tabled by Nkwinti and with a deadline for feedback of April next year, government would pay for the 50 percent to be shared by the labourers.
This money would not be paid to the farm owner, however, but go into an investment and development fund, to be jointly owned by the parties constituting the new ownership regime.
On Thursday, Nkwinti said farmers needed to be rewarded for the contribution they had made to the land.
Labourers would have to be trained on how to manage the farms and keep them profitable under their own administration, as they already knew how to take care of the land.