Gwanya lays down land law

The Newly appointed Land Affairs director general, Thozamile Gwanya, cracked the whip at his first meeting with senior managers, held last month to outline his plans to achieve ambitious land-reform targets.
Issue date: 11 April 2008

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The Newly appointed Land Affairs director general, Thozamile Gwanya, cracked the whip at his first meeting with senior managers, held last month to outline his plans to achieve ambitious land-reform targets.

Scenario planning shows the department must deliver 2,8 million hectares in 2009, 3,8 million hectares in 2010, 4,4 million hectares in 2011, 4,6 million hectares in 2012 and 4,3 million hectares in 2013, to meet the target of distributing 30% of white owned farms to blacks by 2014. Critics say this is an impossible task because the department doesn’t possess the administrative capacity or funds to achieve it. In 14 years government has managed to deliver less than 5 million hectares, which makes handing over another 20 million hectares in five years unlikely.

Moreover, based on calculations predicting an annual land price increase of 9,8%, Gwanya says an additional R74,4 billion will have to be found just to pay for the land. Treasury has agreed to fund less than a 10th of this, with finance minister Trevor Manuel warning of unintended land price inflation if government were to throw massive sums at land reform.

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But Gwanya insists the targets are achievable. “We have clear policies, we have the necessary laws [and] we have the necessary political will,” he told his managers. “All we need is an inspired and dedicated workforce.”

He hopes to slash the department’s vacancy rate from 27% to under 10%, and ordered all sections of the department to fill vacancies within three months, especially at lower levels.

A decision has been taken to employ 450 unemployed graduates, with 102 already contracted this year, to deal with state land disposal. Gwanya railed against officials who are forever “on holiday” and managers who squander money on expensive hotel accommodation, workshops and team building exercises instead of focusing on core functions.

He said that henceforth priority would be accorded to implementing the and Agrarian Reform Programme (LARP), a joint initiative with the agriculture department that aims to redistribute 5 million hectares to 10 000 “new producers”, increase black participation in agribusiness by 10% and increase agricultural production in former homelands by 10% to 15%.

In implementation task team will be set up by the newly appointed deputy chief land claims commissioner, Blessing Mphela, who previously ran the Gauteng and North West land claims commission before moving to the Western Cape premier’s office.
Gwanya insisted that 1,5 million hectares must go to farmworkers in the next 12 months. He also wants legal aid provided for farmworkers especially in “those hot spots where evictions are common”.

He berated officials for the roasting his department received in parliament for failing to table land legislation timeously. Such legislation includes the Land Use Management Bill, which seeks to simplify SA’s Byzantine development planning procedures. It has finally been approved by Cabinet and will be referred to parliamentary committees after languishing in the department for a decade.

The Provision of and Assistance Amendment Bill has finally been released for public comment. will make it easier for government to buy farms as going concerns, including equipment. The regulations for the Communal Land Rights Act, another law over 10 years in the making, seeks to unlock the economic potential of millions of hectares of communal land in former homelands by converting it to freehold title. It has also been released for public comment. The department expects to establish Land Rights Boards in all affected provinces by the end of the year. The boards will settle landownership disputes.

Gwanya wants the drafting of a new white paper on land policy to start as soon as the review of the willing-buyer, willing-seller policy is complete. Recommendations, including a tax on unused land and expropriation at below market value, were submitted to Cabinet late last year, but the department has been instructed to do more work on land acquisition strategies before it can be approved. – Stephan Hofstätter

State can now buy going concerns

its ongoing drive for land transformation, government is tabling amendments to the Provision of Land and Assistance Act of 1993, says Annelize Crosby, Agri SA’s parliamentary representative and adviser for legal and land affairs.
Up to now the state has used the act to arrange funding for various projects.
Crosby explained that with the amendments approved, the minister will be able to buy going concerns and moveable assets, and shares in farming companies. This could improve the success rate with which government establishes new black farmers.

During a lease period, government will be able to evaluate whether beneficiaries are capable candidates, before selling the business to them.
However, a situation could develop in which government owns too much land, and farming enterprises could lose value due to inefficient management. Crosby explained that moveable assets such as tractors and implements lose value quickly if not maintained correctly.

There is also a greater risk of assets being stolen or sold illegally during the state’s tenure period. – Wouter Kriel