552-DA Hellen Zille at the Election Manifesto held at Polokwane show grounds yesterday, 23.02.2014 Picture:Dumisani Dube

Polokwane - The DA will commit to the principle of willing buyer, willing seller on land restitution if it wins the elections, its manifesto states.

The official opposition will make sure the courts have the final say in determining prices when land is expropriated.

Helen Zille’s party has said it would invest R10 billion in land reform over five years, but only once an “overhauled policy” was in place.

It has also pledged to eliminate uncertainty about land reform and land ownership through a commitment to the principle of willing buyer, willing seller, and by ensuring that the courts remain the final arbiter in determining prices when land is expropriated in the public interest, the manifesto says.

“The uncertainty around the ownership of key assets in rural economies discourages investment in agricultural activity. The government has admitted that the uncertainty around land reform has reduced the number of commercial farmers and undermined food security, leading to increased imports and higher food prices. This disadvantages the poor most.”

According to a land audit released last September, private individuals and foreigners own close to 80 percent of South Africa’s land, while the state owns 14 percent.

The audit said 96 million hectares were in the hands of private individuals, companies and trusts.

By comparison, the state owned 17 million hectares.

While sustainable and fair land reform was the “right thing to do” in a country with a history of dispossession, land reform should contribute to rural economies by giving locals greater access to productive assets, the DA says.

“Land reform must achieve justice while retaining and increasing land productivity.”

The manifesto promises to use part of the R10bn to provide low-interest loans for private land transactions and establish a fund for equity schemes.

To address land restitution, the DA pledges to:

* Use available resources better by releasing state-owned land for reform, ensuring the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was adequately staffed and corruption free.

* Release about 17 million hectares of state-owned communal land for reform and give citizens title deeds to the land on which they live or farm.

* Use reform models such as joint ventures, contract farming and farm equity schemes.

* Train and support new land owners by increasing the number of projects that become self-sustaining and providing reasonable income.

President Jacob Zuma and the ANC have blamed the willing buyer, willing seller principle for the marginal transfer of land since 1994.

They said some farmers deliberately frustrated the land restitution process by demanding exorbitant prices. The ANC’s manifesto has since replaced the willing buyer, willing seller principle with a “just and equitable” one.

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The Star