Under-represented communities to have say in land reform policy debate

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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 10-member advisory panel on land reform says under-represented communities must have an opportunity to have their say before a formal policy is drafted.

The panel is expected to submit their findings and recommendations to the Presidency in March 2019. They presented their first feedback during a recent Kempton Park colloquium attended by 200 people, including concerned citizens and academia.

Dr. Vuyo Mahlati, the panel leader and president of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa), highlighted that a spirit of collaboration and addressing land as a justice and rights issue framed conversations in plenary and breakaway sessions. “Speakers affirmed the view in the 1995 White Paper that without reform we will not have peace and stability.”

The panel’s mandate is to provide a unified policy perspective on land reform in respect of restitution, redistribution and tenure reform. Its work is partly informed by the resolution of Parliament to consider expropriation of land without compensation. The focus, however, is on the circumstances in which the policy will be applied, the procedures to be followed and the institutions to implement and enforce.

It is also the duty of the panel to advise government on how to use its constitutional mandate for land reform and its powers to expropriate in the interests of land reform. The colloquium acknowledged the parliamentary process and deliberated on various panel presentations. Emphasis was particularly placed on the following gaps in data and approaches:

  • Sources of knowledge and evidence considered by the panel must include the lived experiences of the voiceless and under-represented communities. This includes the transformation of the tenure system that requires discussion with the communities.
  • Land reform policies will not be effective without an effective and efficient land administration framework and land governance systems. This includes the establishment of the Land Observatory that must record a continuum of rights, land use, water, minerals and leases.
  • More work to focus on compensation models (including zero compensation) in line with developments on expropriation without compensation.
  • A private land acquisition strategy is to be urgently developed to fast-track redistribution. The willingness to donate land by churches, the mining industry and white commercial farmers must be guided by a clear policy to avoid unintended consequences.
  • The redistribution policy and national spatial development framework is to be prioritised.
  • Beneficiary selection strategy and women land ownership.
  • Agricultural and urban models.
  • Land evictions to be stopped.

Since their appointment in September 2018 the panel has been engaging in critical analysis and intensive research of diverse aspects of rural and urban land reform as well as agriculture. They also met with the director generals of key government departments, the Valuer General and the Chief Land Claims Commissioner to address questions and clarify strategic legislative or policy positions, programme plans and implementation.

Mahlati says: “We have no formulated positions or scenarios as yet. We have been engaged in data collection and analysis and were only presenting questions and emerging conceptual ideas from inputs considered. The colloquium was used to solicit responses to these, and learn more about international experiences, as well as fill-in data gaps.”

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