Zuma zooms in on land reform

Government plans to accelerate land reform, but there’s still very little clarity about the policy direction that will be taken to speed up redistribution.

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President Jacob Zuma said in his state of the nation address that, for government to meet its redistribution targets, it should fast track its land redistribution programme. To achieve this it will do away with the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ principle in favour of the ‘just and equitable’ principle for compensation, as set out in the Constitution.

Zuma said the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ principle forces the state to pay more for land than the actual value. He also said it was encouraging that even farmers have called for the fast tracking of land reform and support to emerging farmers.

In addition, the president mentioned proposed amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act “in order to provide for the re-opening of the lodgement of restitution claims, by people who missed the deadline of December 31, 1998”.

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President Jacob Zuma announced in his state of the nation address that government is considering re-opening the lodgement of restitution claims

Also under consideration are “exceptions to the June 1913 cut-off date, to accommodate claims by the descendants of the Khoi and San, as well as heritage sites and historical landmarks”.

Leaders in organised agriculture were disappointed that no clear policy guidelines for land reform were given by the president.

TAU SA president Louis Meintjies said agriculture was once again going to face a difficult time with the announcement that the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ principle is going to be replaced with a system of ‘just and equitable’ compensation.

“It’s clear that the state will unilaterally determine what this compensation will be. This will lead to even more job losses in the agricultural sector,” he said.

Agri SA president Johannes Möller said the land reform process has thus far been riddled with uncertainty, corruption, neglect of productive land, allegations of lack of co-operation by existing owners and even threats of nationalisation.

“We appreciate the president’s effort to bring clarity in this regard, especially with respect to just and equitable compensation to be paid when expropriation occurs,” he said.

“Unfortunately a number of reservations still exist among farming communities as to what the repeal of the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ approach will entail, as well as what the actual level of compensation will be when all factors in terms of the Constitution have been considered.”

Agbis CEO Dr John Purchase said it welcomed the commitment to resolve land reform amicably within the framework of the Constitution. “But,” he added, “uncertainty remains around the newly adopted ‘just and equitable’ principle for compensation, as set out in the Constitution.

“This may very well lead to Constitutional Court challenges in order to clarify the process and principle.”

Meintjies said that, instead of bringing the uncertainty of land reform to an end, Zuma exacerbated it with the announcement that the land claims process will be re-opened.

"This will create new uncertainty in the agriculture sector and will certainly have a visible impact on food security in the country within the next five years,” he warned