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

Dr. Vuyo Mahlati, land reform panel leader & president of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa).

Dr. Vuyo Mahlati, land reform panel leader & president of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa).

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:

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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