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Land does not stretch. We have to share the existing one, says Mtobeli Mxotwa.
Pretoria - When Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti publicised the Green Paper on Land Reform in 2011, he invited all land stakeholders, including agriculture associations, farmworkers, banks, landless people and land valuators to submit proposals for a nationally acceptable land reform programme.
That 11-page Green Paper contained proposals on contemplated land reform policies, tenure systems and land-reform supporting institutions, such as the Office of the Valuer-General, Land Commission and Land Rights Management Board.
The highly capable minister stressed to stakeholders that the government did not want to take a unilateral decision because land was an emotive issue. He would not want to plunge the country again into the same predicament that had been created by the previous undemocratic government which initiated the present land disparities through a myriad of racially discriminatory laws, calculated to take away land from the indigenous black people.
That was three years ago.
However, the farmers’ associations and other interested parties have up to now failed to come up with concrete proposals that could be used to strengthen our land reform regimen.
Instead, the only thing that happened was for the various parties and commentators to embark on their favourite pastime – criticising government initiatives meant for the development of the country. They complained that the policy document was too small and lacked content and substance. Other critics alleged that the policy document was bereft of tangible information in its “flimsy 11 pages”.
The Green Paper proposed a four-tenure system, namely privately owned land that would be limited in extent, public and state land that would only be leased and not sold, communal land system and foreign land ownership which would only be leased by foreigners.
The land reform programme has four pillars – redistribution, restitution, tenure and development.
These four pillars are meant to allocate land democratically and fairly to all people of this country irrespective of class, gender or race.
These policy proposals had been accepted by the policy conference of the ruling party and endorsed by the 53rd national conference of the ANC in Mangaung in December 2012.
One of the sticky proposals which irked land owners was the one that proposed that private ownership of land be limited so other people could also get portions of land.
In South Africa we are living in an abnormal country where land ownership is based on race, largely due to our history.
The country is 122 million hectares in size and has 82 million ha of agricultural land. Eighty-seven percent of this land belongs to white people who constitute a small minority of the population of the country.
The black majority owns a mere 13 percent.
Land disparities have contributed to the present inequalities that are ravaging our country.
Land is an entry point for wealth creation.
When the Relative Land Rights proposals were recently published by a Sunday newspaper, there was an outcry from land owners, who condemned the proposals as being unworkable.
The Relative Land Rights regimen proposes that farmers part with some of their farmland which would be given to their workers. The government would buy these portions for farmworkers and establish an investment and development fund for the benefit of the farmers and his workers.
The fund would be used to develop the farm further and to pay the farmer for his mentorship duties to the farm workers.
This is part of the freehold with limited extent land tenure proposal contained in the Green Paper and nothing else. Land does not stretch. We have to share the existing one.
The farmer would continue to farm on his portion while the farmworkers would use their land portion to do their own farming. This would help ensure food security for the country.
The Land Rights Management Board would handle all disputes between the farmers and their farmworkers.
These measures would serve to obviate the problems of illegal evictions on the farms and also protect farmers against land invasions, while at the same time ensuring democratic and fair redistribution of the land of our country.
President Jacob Zuma recently implored Parliament that MPs should all work towards the betterment of the country and its people.
The most encouraging news about these latest land reform developments is that the Relative Land Rights proposal has been supported by mainstream media editors in the country as the only way forward to break the land disparity impasse that has for years plagued the country.
* Mtobeli Mxotwa is Media Liaison Officer at the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.