South Africa:There will be no Zimbabwe-style land grabs, says minister

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The government has been hard-pressed to complete the land reform programme amid concerns of ‘ Zimbabwe-style land grabs ’


CAPE TOWN.Rural Development minister Gugile Nkwinti briefs media 01 July 2014.Pic:Trevor Samson/ Business Day

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti appeared to tone down calls for radical land reform on Tuesday, saying land expropriation without compensation was an “aspiration” and not ANC policy.

The government has been hard-pressed to complete the land reform programme amid concerns by some farmer organisations and opposition parties that people could resort to “Zimbabwe-style land grabs”.

Providing an update to the media on bills before Parliament, including the Regulation of Agricultural Land Holdings Bill, Nkwinti said land reform would take place within the parameters of the law and that there would be no land grabs.

President Jacob Zuma has on more than two occasions said the Constitution should be amended to allow for land expropriation without compensation. The ANC has decided to convene a special meeting to deal with the issue before its policy conference in June.

Nkwinti said expropriation without compensation was likely to occur in instances where land was acquired unlawfully or used for criminal purposes. However, he pointed out that the principle of willing buyer, willing seller was
not law.

When acquiring property, the valuer-general will take into account five other factors in the Constitution, rather than confining the process to the market value of a property.

These factors include use of a property, history of the acquisition target, market value, extent of direct state involvement and purpose of the acquisition.

Nkwinti said the Regulation of Agricultural Land Holdings Bill, which was recently published for public comment, aimed to reverse the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, and to ensure a “just and equitable” distribution of agricultural land to Africans.

The core intervention introduced by the bill is the creation of a land commission, which would serve as the primary structure to oversee the collection, maintenance and dissemination of all information regarding public agricultural land and private agricultural land.

“Currently, whenever the state expresses a … need to facilitate access to agricultural land in terms of … our Constitution, it is often reminded that it has a large property portfolio that it should start with. The true extent of this portfolio and its development potential remains debatable. Land audits by the department have not been able to reveal who owns and uses the agricultural land of SA. There is therefore a need for an accurate record of all public agricultural land,” said Nkwinti.

The bill seeks to block foreign ownership and seize unlawfully acquired land. Nkwinti said land owned by foreign nationals would not be arbitrarily taken away.

The bill states: “No foreign person shall, from the date of the commencement of this act, acquire ownership of agricultural land.” But foreigners could own land if the property has good black economic empowerment credentials.BDLive