President Jacob Zuma has emphatically called for an end to willing buyer, willing seller principle in land reform.
Zuma told ANC policy conference delegates in Midrand on Tuesday that this arrangement was “too expensive” and “taking too long” to address the landlessness – and the resultant poverty – caused by expropriation laws dating back to 1913.
This matter has been on the ANC’s agenda for some time. But Zuma’s outspoken criticism of the requirement that there should be a willing seller when the state wants to acquire land for restitution or redistribution – and that the seller be compensated – is the clearest signal yet that the ANC could ditch the policy this week.
Conference delegates are now spending three days behind closed doors debating, among other topics, how land reform may be speeded up and how to deal with the issue of compensation for expropriation.
Speaking to journalists later, Zuma set the land debate in the context of widespread poverty and the continued control of the economy by white men.
“Drive around in South Africa and (you will find) stretches and stretches of land that belongs to white farmers… Yet there are people crammed in villages. They can’t use the land. Because of the negotiated settlement, we say, constitutionally, there must be willing buyer, willing seller. (But it’s) expensive and difficult. (Existing) laws are too difficult to make those processes move quicker.”
Zuma said “people are angry” about the economy and landlessness, but the ANC would not propose anything “outside the constitution”. Hee also moved to calm fears of mass expropriations on the basis of race, saying the ANC “has not gone that route – because we can’t” and “nothing untoward will happen”.
“So how do we correct this situation so that we do something that is legal, but addresses the plight of the poor?” Zuma said.
Kwandiwe Kondlo, executive director of the Human Sciences Research Council’s land reform programme, said the willing buyer, willing seller approach “contributed to the slow land reform”, but so did
The government was not fixing the problem, which it could by appointing people on the basis of their “skills” rather than “political loyalty”, he said.
The DA’s spokeswoman on justice, Dene Smuts, said: “It is not true that a seller can frustrate expropriation and land reform.” Agri SA president Johannes Möller also blamed bureaucratic inefficiencies for the slow pace of land reform.