Minister praises work of presidential land reform panel
Politics / 21 December 2019, 12:38pm / MAYIBONGWE MAQHINA
Land Affairs Minister Thoko Didiza has said the work done by the presidential panel on land reform was helpful to the government in the sense that somebody from external looked at weaknesses internally and made recommendations.
“Some of the proposals that are in the recommendations will assist in strengthening institutions to ensure delivery process in respect of land reform is undertaken with better speed and co-ordination,” she said.
“The other legislative arrangements that are being proposed, I think, will assist us to give clarity on a number of areas which have been a bit of difficulty for government before,” Didiza said.
The minister made the statements this week when she briefed the media on the panel’s recommendation that were scrutinised by Cabinet at its last meeting for the year last week Friday.
In July, the panel, which was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, submitted its report containing 73 recommendations. Of those, the Cabinet endorsed 60, nine were not approved and three others were noted.
Didiza said the panel’s recommendations would assist the government to deal with skewed land ownership, which was a legacy of the past.
“All of us would like to see an inclusive society where the issue of inequality even in terms of land ownership, access and use are addressed.
“If we do our work as government, also working with the private sector and those willing to address this important issue, we will be a better, non-racial and non-sexist society,” she said.
Didiza noted the panel had raised issues of access to land by women.
“In some communities, women can't access land in their own right. What the panel indicated to government is that land reform should really address this issue of equity when it comes to gender.”
According to Didiza, the adoption of the majority of the recommendations means those were actually implemented by affected departments.
“The majority of those will relate to agriculture and land affairs, housing, to a limited extent to justice and environment. Those various departments will factor in those recommendations to their programme of action,” she said.
The Cabinet resolved that some of the recommendations could require further work. These include consideration to be given on the imposition of land ceilings to limit the total area of land that individuals or company may own, so as to limit and reverse the trend towards concentration of land ownership which is antithetical to land reform.
“Such ceilings must be varied across agro-ecological zones,” she said.
There will also be work undertaken in beneficiary selection and land allocation policy, which was approved by Cabinet and would be released for public comment by the Land Affairs Department.
“It deals with issues of transparency in terms of land allocation. We are working on donation policy to guide those who want to donate land.”
Didiza said the question of inclusivity to deal with spatial planning has been addressed.
“A national spatial development framework has been released for comment. It does address the issue. Government targeting land expropriation for residential purposes, we will address these recommendations being made,” she added.
However, the Cabinet has not supported some of the proposals made by the advisory panel. These include establishing a National Land Rights Protector to manage higher-level conflict, especially between the State and the citizens.
“The inter-ministerial committee has instructed the ministry of justice and the department of land affairs to undertake to look at the land claims court and to see whether or not such legislation could not be broadly expanded to include all land-related matters,” she said.
It also rejected the proposal to create the Land Reform Fund, saying optimum and judicial use of current budget allocation can still address the resource required for land reform.