Land reform: speak up now!

Two important pieces of draft legislation that will shape the way that land reform in South Africa will be implemented were published recently, and are currently open for public comment.

Any interested and/or affected individual or entity has the opportunity to submit comment on these bills, and this is your opportunity to have your voice heard.

The Draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill (the Amendment Bill), which aims to amend the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation, was gazetted on 13 December.

The deadline to submit written comment is 31 January. The Draft Bill for the Beneficiary Selection and Land Allocation Policy (the Beneficiary Selection Bill) was published in the Government Gazette of 3 January, and the deadline for comment is 2 March.

The Amendment Bill states that its purpose is to “amend Section 25 of the Constitution so as to provide that the right to property may be limited in such a way that where land is expropriated for land reform, the amount of compensation payable may be nil”.

It also proposes a subsection that will indicate that national legislation must be put in place to “set out specific circumstances where a court may determine that the amount of compensation is nil”.

Overall, the intention of the Beneficiary Selection Bill is to make sure that access to land via the state’s land reform programmes is given to worthy recipients.

As was demonstrated by the report, ‘Elite capture in land redistribution in South Africa’, published by the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies in December 2019, land reform needs to address poverty and create livelihood opportunities for those at the lower end of the “historically disadvantaged”.

However, the report showed that land allocation and access to resources are instead skewed in favour of well-off beneficiaries.

The Beneficiary Selection Bill aims to put a stop to this by introducing stricter selection criteria for beneficiaries, such as excluding certain individuals and groups, namely politicians, traditional leaders and certain state employees, but also by proactively seeking to benefit certain people such as women, youth and agricultural graduates.

By including that applicants be subjected to a skills audit and assessment before being allocated any land in the selection criteria, and by making the training of beneficiaries compulsory, the Bill also aims to lower the high failure rate of land reform.

The impact that these two bills will have on the future of land reform and agriculture cannot be overstated.

This is the time to perform your civic duty and be part of the democratic process by letting lawmakers know how these proposed pieces of legislation will affect you, and also to recommend, from your experience, what changes need to be made to make sure that, 20 years from now, we are not looking back on another two decades of land reform failures.