Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti addresses the National Assembly. Photo: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Cape Town - Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti's controversial proposal for farmers to cede half their land to workers is not at odds with ANC thinking but an attempt to turn it into policy, he said on Tuesday.

Nkwinti said his policy paper titled "Strengthening the Relative Rights of People Working the Land" stemmed from a ruling party resolution taken at the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung in 2012.

Speaking to reporters in Cape Town, Nkwinti expressed surprise that the party appeared to distance itself from the document. National spokesman Zizi Kodwa told City Press the ANC did not have a policy position on the mooted equity scheme for farm dwellers.

Nkwinti countered: "It is a resolution of Mangaung which came from the policy conference of the ANC."

He said the particular proposal was based on the party resolutions dealing with communal land tenure.

"If you then look at section 16 of that land tenure system and you look in particular at bullet point two, it talks about this one that deals with people working on the farms," he added.

"How they missed it out I do not understand. So I chose not to engage on that matter but I must explain it as I am doing now."

The minister said he was trying to formulate a policy to turn the resolution into workable reality and would, once the discussion phase had been completed, report back to the ruling party at its national general council in a year's time.

"With as to how to implement it now, we have been engaging the stakeholders and saying we will go to the ANC and say this is what people who are involved in the sector are saying, these are the proposals we have put there," he said.

"When the discussion is done in April next year it is going to be the general national council of the ANC in June, July next year. Then I'm going to go to the ANC and say 'African National Congress you asked me to do this thing, this is what I came up with, now what are you saying?' That is how policy articulation works.

He added that he was seeking to formulate a policy based on the Freedom Charter.

"I think the matter should be closed at that. We don't want to create a situation as if the ANC is speaking in tongues on the matter."

The policy paper envisions giving farm labourers ownership of half the land on which they are employed, taking into account the time they have worked on the land and their contribution to developing it.

Under the proposal, government would pay for the half to be shared by the labourers. This money would not be paid to the farm owner, however, but go into an investment and development fund, to be jointly owned by the parties constituting the new ownership regime.

The deadline for comment is April 2015.

Opposition parties have rushed to denounce the document.

Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald said it was "irresponsible" and farmers had told his party it would prompt them to leave the country and look for land elsewhere.