Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza, second from right, with panel representatives on the contents of the report released by the presidential expert advisory panel on land reform and agriculture. Picture: GCIS

Johannesburg - Expropriation of land in limited circumstances and donation of land for restitution are some of the recommendations made by the panel of experts on land reform and agriculture.

On Sunday the panel, which was appointed in September 2018, made public its report, after having handed it to President Cyril Ramaphosa in June.

Briefing the media, panel chairperson Vuyo Mahlati said the majority of panel members endorsed the proposed policy shift towards using a provision of the Constitution to expropriate land without compensation

“The majority view of the panel is that it is an inescapable fact that Section 25 is compensation-centric,” Mahlati said.

She said they had offered a proposal to the constitutional amendment that clarified that expropriation could be necessary in limited circumstances.

“We suggested wording to serve as a clarification that compensation may be zero in circumstances that justify this. The panel recommends these circumstances be part of the Expropriation Bill and be detailed in the compensation policy.”

But two members of the panel, Dan Kriek and Nic Serfontein, disagreed with expropriation without compensation, and were expected to release their report.

Mahlati said land redistribution should be not dependent on the willing buyer, willing seller principle.

“Instead, we believe and propose that the government should pursue a more targeted acquisition of land identified as needed.”

She added that expropriation without compensation was just one lever and strategy.

“We believe the new white paper must specify the range of land acquisition methods that will be pursued for land identified as required for land redistribution or restitution.”

The panel has recommended that there should be a land donation policy and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza was urged to convene talks on land donation across sectors within the coming year.

Mahlati said they had also proposed the establishment of a Land Reform Fund to bring state and private finance to support land reform.

The Land Claims Commission should prioritise settlement of old order claims submitted prior to the December 1998 deadline, she said.

Didiza was also urged to use her discretionary authority to address legitimate claims which fell outside the eligibility criteria of the Restoration of Rights Act.

Mahlati said the panel had recommended that the Land Claims Court be reformed and have its mandate expanded and clarified.

The panel has, in the meantime, also called for more investigations and prosecution to stop land-related corruption, and that the department tighten the beneficiary selection process to reduce the scope for corruption.

“We call on the government to establish an office of land rights protector as an ombudsperson, who can investigate allegations of corruption,” Mahlati said.

The panel also highlighted that there should be an end to farm evictions and that proposed land administration be recognised as the fourth pillar of land reform, and that urban land reform policy be developed.

Didiza said, in addressing the land question, that the government was not only addressing the historical legacy of dispossession, but recognised the multifaceted role of land in the economy and in social development.

“Speedy delivery of land for human settlement will not only provide our people with houses as assets, but also will ensure integrated spatial planning where we can work towards de-racialising our communities,” she said.

But the DA’s Thandeka Mbabama said the party rejected the panel’s report with regards to land expropriation without compensation, and other untenable suggestions.

“Its suggestions are high-risk, and at best promise low reward for those in need of meaningful land reform,” Mbabama said. She added that the report rejected providing land title and security of tenure to South Africans living on communal land.

“Denying title to communal land perpetuates the wrongs of our past, and denies land ownership to hundreds of thousands of people,” she said.

The Southern Africa Agri-Initiative said it was disappointed with the panel’s report.

“The report is flawed because it is not morally justifiable that individual landowners, who legally bought their properties, should foot the bill of land reform as a national responsibility.”

It said the report avoided any reference to how agricultural financing would be affected.

Political Bureau