Land reform could take another 50 years

If the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) doesn’t speed up the land reform process it could take another 50 years or more to reach the target of redistributing 30% of land to the previously disadvantaged.

- Advertisement -

Presenting the findings of an independent review of the willing buyer, willing seller principle to parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform, the department’s chief director of policy research, Hilton Toolo, said it was time to face the facts.

“After 18 years, only a quarter of the 30% target has been delivered. If things remain the same it will take 54 years to reach the 30% land redistribution target,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves, how are we going to change this? How will the Green Paper on Land Reform assist us in reaching what we have identified as a minimum target, in a fair amount of time?” he asked.

Not all committee members agreed with Toolo’s summary of the situation, but some did express their shock and disappointment at the slow pace of progress. ANC MP Bhekizizwe Zulu said the current state of affairs is unacceptable, pointing out that the deadline to meet the 30% target has already been postponed once to the 2014 date, which now also seems overly optimistic.

- Advertisement -

“All the departments who deal with land, including agriculture, should sit down and ask what can we do to achieve this target, because it doesn’t sound as if we’re doing enough. We’re getting paid, but we’re not achieving anything,” he said. According to UDM MP Stanley Ntapane, the department should admit the willing buyer, willing seller approach has failed and move on.

However, DA MP Athol Trollip challenged Toolo’s report, saying land reform will speed up once all the preparatory work, including the finalisation of the Green Paper on Land Reform, has been done. He also questioned the land reform statistics quoted by the department. “In the absence of a land audit, these kinds of assertions tend to be more emotive and not necessarily true,” he said.

In his budget speech, land reform minister Gugile Nkwinti said that about 30% of the 24,5 million hectare land target has been redistributed, but he admitted that this did not take into account financial compensation paid to beneficiaries who did not want land and cases where the land could not be restored.

Responding to Trollip’s comment, Mdu Shabane, director-general of the DRDLR, admitted that the state has no record of how much land is owned by black commercial farmers, because, in terms of the Constitution, the deeds office is not obliged to record the race of land owners.