President Ramaphosa addressing the ANC land policy with former President Kgalema Mohlante. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA

Cape Town - The distribution of land to those who need it is a better vehicle for land reform than land restitution.
This view emerged during a panel discussion hosted by Stellenbosch University, on the progress of land reform in the country, as the debate on land expropriation continues.

Parliament’s Constitutional Amendment Committee is receiving public comment before handing the National Assembly a way forward to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

And with growing discontent and the cropping up of new informal settlements as people seek decent housing, talks are under way to try and find solutions to the land question.

At the discussion at Stellenbosch University, Professor Ruth Hall from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape, spoke on the background to land reform policies that have taken shape in the country.

She said the passing of the Restitution of Land Rights Act saw 63 000 land claims submitted by the deadline of 1998, a figure that had increased to 160 000 claims when the process was re-opened in 2014 for those who had missed the first deadline.

“The Motlanthe High Level Panel found that to settle the old claims of 1998... it will take another 35 years, and the Constitutional Court has ruled that no new claims can be settled before the old ones. And the estimate to settle the new claims is 143 years; we have 35 years plus 143,” she said.

“We are sitting with restitution in an untenable situation... the State will have to think of another way to deal with this.

“Interestingly, we understand that around 90% of those who put in new claims are asking for cash compensation, so the pace could be expedited if we were to increase budgets to pay people out.

“Expropriation without compensation is not going to help with cash compensation.

“We got to this point because of the state of the economy; people see land as the key avenue to benefit from, but the ANC and EFF mean different things with regards to expropriation of land without compensation.”

The author of Land is Ours, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi also criticised the failures of institutions put in place to drive land reform, stating that the government needed to move away from bottlenecking the process by involving the courts and simply providing land to those in need.

“The way forward in dealing with this should be leaving the constitution alone and passing a law that will (equal a) sort of redistribution, and one that will (be a) sort of expropriation, defining the circumstances of doing so without compensation,” he said.

“The second part we should be changing is institutions for land reform; the land claims court has not been a success, as well as the land commission. “The deeper problem has not been the institutions but the judiciarisation of land reform; it is impossible to do land reform in a judicial, adversarial process - proving a claim and have someone prove that their ancestors were removed from land after June 19, 1913.

“It is outrageous and it makes no sense because black people as a whole were dispossessed in South Africa. It is like asking them to prove that they are black. So a model that works is a model that... works on access and the need for land.

“(There is) a fixation with restitution when it no longer works, has failed; we need to change the model from restitution to redistribution if we want to address land reform on a sustainable basis - that is where we need to look at land reform....

“The suggestion is to scrap restitution, it has failed.

“It does not matter if you add the claims or fast-track them; what we know about restitution is that those who took money in 1998 have come back to stand in the queue for RDP housing - it is a problem.”

Weekend Argus