South African cabinet rejects farm-size limits in land reforms
JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s cabinet rejected proposals to limit the size of farms and to establish a dedicated fund in the nation’s land-reform process, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said.
An advisory panel set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July submitted a report containing 73 recommendations on the land-reform process. Of those, the cabinet endorsed 60 and noted three others, according to the Department of Agriculture.
The proposal on farm sizes was rejected because “agricultural conditions vary across the country,” Didiza told reporters Thursday in Pretoria, the capital. “While in one place where rainfall is good and the land fertile, a far smaller farm would be needed than a farm in one of the more arid areas.”
A recommendation by the panel that a dedicated land-reform fund be established was also dismissed “because we believe that the optimum and judicial use of funds can be done through the current budgeting process,” she said.
The ruling African National Congress adopted expropriation of land without compensation as a policy in 2017 to address racially skewed ownership patterns dating back to colonialism and white-minority rule. It’s seen by Ramaphosa’s foes within the party as a test of his resolve to push through decisions unpopular with the business community.
The panel’s other proposals included considering a tax on land that exceeds the maximum threshold for one owner and levies on underutilized land. It also suggested dissolving the Ingonyama Trust under which the king of South Africa’s most populous ethnic group, the Zulus, holds 2.8 million hectares (6.92 million acres) of land on behalf of his subjects.
The ANC plans to change the constitution to make it easier to seize land without paying for it. Separate legislation has been drafted outlining the circumstances under which the state can do this.