Survey provides a snapshot of land reform

The FW de Klerk Foundation recently released a research document on land reform in SA. Issue date 8 June 2007

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The FW de Klerk Foundation recently released a research document on land reform in SA. The aim of the document is to inform the public of the current state of affairs and to enable stakeholders to participate in the land reform debate in a responsible and constructive manner.

The document, prepared by ­foundation researcher Frouwien Bosman, ­summarises the historical background, the ­constitutional implications, progress made and land reform policy shifts, as well as ­commentary on proposed land reform policy changes. The study analyses whether government’s proposed approach to land reform is in step with the socioeconomic ­realities in SA and whether it will effectively address current challenges. ­Recommendations for a sustainable approach to land reform are also formulated.

Issues raised in the document vary from the capacity and suitability of the ­agricultural sector to serve as the primary catalyst for socioeconomic development, and to make further contributions to the state coffers given the sector’s waning contributions to GDP and the high risks and low levels of profitability associated with agricultural businesses; to the inappropriateness of a programme that focuses on rural land reform, while the majority of the SA population is moving to urban areas.

The study also appeals for greater clarity on the manner in which “just and ­equitable” compensation will be determined in expropriation cases and on the planned administration of the state’s right of first refusal. For example: will the state match the highest bid in the market or will ­compensation be determined in another manner?  Annelize Crosby, Agri SA’s ­parliamentary liaison manager, welcomed the research, saying it provides readers with an ­objective review of all programmes so they can take active part in the land reform debate. She said that most city-dwellers are quite ­passive when it comes to land reform: “They don’t realise the ­devastating impact failed land reform will have on food ­security and their livelihoods, and they therefore tend to take land reform for granted.”

Fears were raised at the launch of the document that SA was heading for a Zimbabwe situation due to the slow pace of land reform, as more than 80% of SA land still belongs to whites – who represent less than 10% of SA’s total population. Crosby, however, pointed out that SA’s situation is very different from that in Zimbabwe, and that SA’s constitution, policies and legislation are helping to reduce pressure. She added that there has to be a balance between the pace and the success of land reform – failed land reform will only ­create frustration and this could lead to other problems. “We should not underestimate the effect that too slow or failed land reform could have on the country,” she said.

Beverley Jansen, Western Cape land claims commissioner, however, pointed out that land reform is an extremely complex process with legal and administrative sides to it. There also isn’t a textbook solution on how to implement land reform successfully. Jansen regards SA as much more successful in practising land reform than America, Australia and Canada – these countries only settled a few claims and this was done over almost 10 years. SA in contrast has so far settled over 15 000 cases and these cases are very complex as they ­usually represent claims of groups of people and not individuals. – Glenneis Erasmus

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