Cape Town - An expert advisory panel on land reform and agriculture appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year has released a final report with recommendations. It also gave the go-ahead for a constitutional amendment for expropriation of land without compensation, but with strict conditions.
Panel chairperson Dr Vuyokazi Mahlati said: “The land reform trajectory requires a radical shift, as 80% of urban dwellers reside on 2% of the country's land. “The report recommends immediate action, including the immediate allocation of land, building on and refocusing on private partnerships, strengthening food systems, and rural and urban dwellers.”
Mahlati said the report called for a consolidated national land reform policy framework, with a new white paper to address spatial transformation and climate change.
“The framework must also add land administration as a fourth pillar, retaining and strengthening land restitution (and) redistribution. Land reform could enable social cohesion, deliver social justice, and restore dignity to the majority of the people. Land reform can also contribute to inclusive growth, and sustainability.”
The panel recommended that a land reform fund be set up; that the government consider imposing land ceilings to limit the area of land that an individual or company can own.
It said the government must institute a land tax inquiry to devise a rates policy to “disincentive the retention of large and unproductive land holdings, and that large landholdings beyond a prescribed threshold be acquired by the state or be “punitively taxed”.
The report urged the government to tread cautiously on current and pending legislation governing communal land tenure, and traditional land governance. It also recommended that the the Ingonyama Trust Act be repealed and the trust disbanded or its governance be devolved to local level.
The Ingonyama Trust is a corporate entity established to administer the land traditionally owned by the Zulu people for the benefit, material welfare and social well-being of the Zulu nation, who continue to occupy the land as they historically have done.
Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu chairs the board.
It also recommend that a land rights’ protector be appointed to stop widespread land-related corruption, and to refer investigations to the National Prosecuting Authority.
The panel has to advise the government on the circumstances in which the policy on expropriation without compensation can be implemented; what procedures to follow; and institutions to enforce the rights of affected persons to a judicial review.
The report was presented to the Cabinet on Wednesday, and each government department has been given two months to study it and devise a plan for implementation.
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza said the Cabinet had noted the report and had referred it to the state departments for analysis and action plans to present to the inter-ministerial committee, before it will be adopted by the Cabinet.
Within hours of Didiza and the panel making the report public, the DA rejected it “in terms of land expropriation without compensation, and other untenable suggestions it makes”.
“The panel’s suggestions are high-risk, and at best promise low reward for those in need of meaningful land reform,” said Thandeka Mbabama, the DA’s spokesperson on agriculture, land reform and rural development.
Civil rights organisation AfriForum said it would intensify its campaign against expropriation without compensation at local and international level. “The underlying message of the report is that black ownership is good, and white ownership is bad,” said Ernst Roets, its deputy chief executive.
AgriSA said it raises red flags. “If the recommendations contained in this report are implemented to the letter, food security for all South Africans will be compromised,” said Omri van Zyl, AgriSA’s executive director.