Ruth Hall
Ruth Hall
Tembeka Ngcukaitobi
Tembeka Ngcukaitobi
Cape Town - The ANC government has the power to expropriate land but it has chosen not to, says Professor Ruth Hall, a researcher at UWC and the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies.

Hall was speaking at Stellenbosch University’s Business School's Leaders Angle conference, held at the Portside building on the Foreshore on Thursday.

UCT land researcher Dr Annika Claassens, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and Dr Litha Magingxa, the executive manager for agricultural economics at the Land Bank, were also guest speakers.

Hall said there was a growing concern at a lack of public oversight and accountability in land distribution and "elite capture", where urban businessmen were getting access to farms, and only 23% of beneficiaries were women.

She said there were several distinct questions around the issue of land, but focused on redistribution, restitution and tenure rights.

“There is a current focus of public discourse about land expropriation without compensation and the argument is that there is a need to amend the constitution, specifically the property clause. I’d argue that the amendment of the constitution is not necessary for us to move forward with land reform,” Hall said.

“In many ways, the constitution (represents) a mandate for transformation.

"It sets out an obligation on the state to embark on (land) redistribution.”

Hall said the land redistribution budget is sitting at 0.4% and has never been more than 1% of the total budget.

“In terms of resource allocation, it doesn’t look like (the land issue) has ever been a priority.”

She said dispossession of land was a repeated experience for black people.

“The demand for land reform is symbolic. It’s a representation of the idea that there has not been decolonisation until we deal with the issue of land.

"It’s symbolic in the sense of nationhood, restoration of dignity and citizenship.”

Describing the ANC’s attitude towards the land question throughout the 20th century, she said the party’s vision was “ambivalent”.

Ngcukaitobi, who penned a book titled The Land Is Ours, scrutinised two key points (resolutions 15 and 17) from the ANC’s Nasrec conference resolutions on the land question.

“(One of) the resolutions doesn’t say, ‘all land is to be expropriated without compensation’.

“The resolution doesn’t say the constitution must be amended in order to achieve land expropriation without compensation. What it does say is that it should be among the key mechanisms.”

He said the ANC proposes that there be a focus on vacant, unused and underutilised tracts of land as the focal point of expropriation without compensation.

“The fact of the matter is that the ANC’s resolution is limited in scope. The scope of section 25 is property. Property, which is broader than land, includes shares in the stock exchange and immovables.”

He said the rate of urbanisation stood at 60%.

“Black people like me have left the villages for the cities. And so when we demand land in the cities, we are demanding decent houses. We don’t want to live in shacks.”

Ngcukaitobi described the government as “the biggest evictor” because it engages in a cycle of evicting people and promising them land.

Claassens said mining companies and chiefs, as in the case of Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape, work together to prioritise mining interests, depriving residents of land.

“Expropriation without compensation is happening on a routine basis. In fact, it’s happening to poor black people and not rich white people.

“It’s happening in places affected by mining, and it’s possible because of the Mineral Resources Act.”

The act allows companies that have won mining rights to expropriate “surface rights”.

“Mining in the country has moved to former homelands.”

She said this was another form of dispossession.

Magingxa said it has become a global trend for agricultural sectors to invest in technology. He said it was important to intertwine land reform and water when discussing land policies.

“These are very close twins in the sector, so I think it will be important to align the discussion of access to water and access to land,” he said.

Weekend Argus