‘State land grabs distort prices’
Government intervention is not appropriate in a land redistribution programme based on the willing buyer, willing seller model, according to Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti.
At a briefing in Boksburg on Friday, Nkwinti said when the government entered the fray, it caused a disjuncture in the market that resulted in land being inappropriately priced.
The media briefing followed a meeting of the National Reference Group (Nareg), which consists of representatives from traditional leadership, organised agriculture, emerging farmers and the government.
The meeting was called to discuss progress on the much criticised green paper on land reform. Nkwinti said work on the green paper was proceeding at a rapid pace.
Nkwinti revealed that the government believed the willing buyer, willing seller process worked only in private transactions between two individuals.
In addition, land grabs were not an option as the government was committed to “expropriation with fair compensation”. This contrasted with the ANC Youth League’s call last May for expropriation of farmland without compensation.
“Land grabs are not an option. We will have to change the constitution and need a percentage of the people to support it. There are provisions for expropriation with fair compensation,” Nkwinti said.
The green paper, published in September, seeks to execute “six work streams” to help accelerate land redistribution.
These include the establishment of a three-tier land tenure system; the office of the valuer-general; a land rights management board; land management commission; communal tenure; and the application of legislative amendments.
Nkwinti said the green paper development process would be “very interactive” and Nareg would serve as a reference point and forum to discuss and formulate proposals.
“The National Reference Group noted that a lot of work has been done, and that this work was undertaken collectively by the various roleplayers, which has ensured that all have an input into the way forward. The meeting further noted that some work streams have not progressed as well as anticipated, and agreed that urgent measures be put in place to assist these work streams.
“The meeting set time lines for the work being undertaken to be finalised, and it was agreed that the work be completed by middle March 2012. Nareg will meet during mid-March to assess the work done,” he said.
The green paper came in for stiff criticism when it was publicised. Among the problems cited was a lack of clarity on property rights, as it proposed that emerging farmers would have to lease property instead of acquiring outright ownership. It was also attacked for proposing a ceiling on how much land farmers could own.
Some suggested that land reform failures should be attributed to the government’s insistence on using the 1913 Land Act as a framework for the present land reform process.
Lechesa Tsenoli, the Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, said the government would continue to use the 1913 Land Act and not seek to establish a new land redistribution framework.
The 1913 act provided for black people to hold only 13 percent of the country’s land.
Tsenoli said the government would not backtrack on resolutions made at the negotiations. Changing the framework would be the same as changing colonial borders, he said. - Ayanda Mdluli