New land bill an empty promise – DA

Earlier this week President Zuma signed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill and the Property Valuation Bill into law, allowing the reopening of restitution claims and the establishment of the office of the Land Valuer-General.

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But, according to the DA, these bills were likely to fail in their intended purpose of righting the wrongs experienced with South Africa’s restitution and land reform process.

“The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill sells an empty promise to many South Africans who were dispossessed of land by discriminatory laws during apartheid,” said DA spokesperson for rural development and land reform Thomas Walters in a statement.

He said that in its current form the act would “overload a corrupt and incapacitated restitutions process even further, leading to delays for the dispossessed and stagnation in the rural economy”.

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According to Walters, the DA suggested several changes to the which would have ensured “certainty in the restitution process”, but these were ignored.

He added that the Property Valuation Act “misdiagnoses the problem behind land redistribution”.

The reason for the slow rate of land reform was not, as the ANC claimed, the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle, said Walters. But rather a reflection of the fact that 92% of land claimants preferred to take cash pay-outs instead of land.

He said the Valuation Act would only add to uncertainty, and threaten jobs for many South Africans.

“By doing away with the principle of willing-buyer, willing-seller in the negotiation of land prices, the Act discourages new investment in the agricultural sector and may lead to increases in production costs for farmers due to increased interest rates and lower loans being offered relative to the value of properties,” said Walters.

The signing of the Bills and subsequent re-opening of land claims was also met with little enthusiasm from the Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), which said in a statement that government had not allocated enough money to deal with the expected number of new land claims.

The ARD pointed out that the budget for restitution over the next year (about R2,6 billion) was the lowest it has been since 2009/2010 in nominal terms and since 2004/2005 when adjusted for inflation.

The ARD referred to government’s estimation that about 379 000 new claims would be lodged over the next five years, saying that at the current rate at which land claims were being settled, it would take 121 years to settle all new and outstanding restitution claims.