Green Paper update

At the recent National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation’s annual general meeting, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti spoke about the reasons for some of the department’s policies.

Green Paper update
Photo: Dr. Jack
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With regard to the Green Paper, we have decided that we will not have a White Paper, but that policies will be drawn from the existing Green Paper. I like consulting, because it gives me an idea of what people think beyond official reports, which are often inaccurate. My job has been to give you a framework and the principles and to hold up a strategic front with regard to rural development and land reform.

The tenure system In every economy, the tenure system defines both economic relations and political power. When the ruling party took over it did not deal with tenure. We accepted tenure as it was. I began to change the balance of power by initiating strong political institutions, as there were then only economic institutions. A strategic decision was made that state land would be leasehold.

The government had given people land through restitution or other government redistribution programmes. But because they were not supported, some of them went to financial institutions, such as the Land Bank or commercial banks, to borrow money. Those people who could not service their loans had their farms repossessed and auctioned off. These farms were not bought by black farmers, but went back to the very people from which they had come, because they had money.

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How could we as a responsible government not protect that interest? We needed to stabilise the land market by ensuring that the land we bought remained [safe]. The governing party agreed that the leasehold should be at least 30 years so that it could be used as collateral for loans.

Private ownership
With privately-owned land, we said it would remain freehold but to a limited extent. This is because land doesn’t grow or increase, but populations, challenges, poverty, unemployment and inequality are constantly changing. This will ultimately cause serious political challenges. So we have to share the land.

I asked what would it take to have a small-scale farm which was commercial and profitable. But the answer was: ‘No minister, you are going against the trend.’ The trend internationally is that big was good, big was cool. And I’m saying yes, it might be cool elsewhere, but not here. Because here, we have the majority of the population hungry and starving, and they are without land. So, those who have the land must be prepared to share it.

Foreign ownership
The governing party resolved in Mangaung that no foreigner, in principle, should own land in this country. Land should be leased to foreigners. But with that we were facing a Constitutional challenge. It might be unconstitutional to implement a law retrospectively when it came to land ownership in the country. Therefore we said we must conduct land audits and once that is approved by Cabinet, we should implement a policy that prevents the sale of land to foreigners. Because of the Constitutional challenge, we will still have freehold land owned by foreigners but to a limited extent. So, we will have a combination of freehold to a limited extent, and leaseholds.

Communal land
We have decided to institutionalise user rights. If these rights are put into law, it would mean that nobody, irrespective of gender, will be denied the use of the land in their community. There is a cry in rural areas that when the husband dies, women lose their rights to the land. Indunas take the land away from the women. I can tell you that this is a reality because we visited an area with the president [Jacob Zuma] where we ploughed a piece of land.

After that, as we walked to the village to be addressed by the president, the induna called some people to stay behind. I stayed to hear what the induna was going to tell them. As I stood there, a woman came and spoke to me. “The land you ploughed belonged to my late husband and the induna has taken it away from me,” she said.

The only thing for me to do was to go to the law. Institutionalising land user rights would mean that a person had perpetual user rights on their land. After the death of a husband the land could not be taken from his wife. However, we must also protect land if it is to be used as collateral. We can give first right of refusal to the community if the user wants to leave and sell the land. If the community cannot buy it, then government should be given the second right of refusal. This will ensure that we don’t have the land taken by a bank that will sell it on.

Supporting institutions
The Land Management Commission and the Office of the Land Valuer General are institutions which will support this change. The two institutions are both at the bill stage. The Cabinet will consider the Office of the Valuer General Bill soon, as it has to be passed into a law. When that is done, we will implement it. The Land Management Commission has not gone for public comment yet. It will probably be given about 30 days for public comment because we want it to be passed with the Office of the Land Valuer General Bill.

The Land Rights Management Board would be linked with the Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill (Esta). Unfortunately, this is still in discussion. It will especially deal with issues such as the eviction of farm dwellers. It is linked to sustainable rural settlement. The Diyatalawa Village in the Free State is an example. This is a semi-green village model that the department has built.

We’ve built this sustainable green village so that workers only go out to sell their labour power, but come home afterwards. This will prevent them from being in a vulnerable situation where they depend entirely on the farm owner’s land.
The office of the Land Rights Management Committee would represent both the land owners and the farm workers.

Dealing with the legacy of the 1913 land act

In order to reverse the effects of the 1913 Land Act, we have developed a programme called the Animal and Veld Management Programme. This is a programme which I think you will be very interested in. It is a rural development programme which is going to be important, especially in reversing the effects of the 1913 Land Act, and the negative impact this has had on the environment as a result of overpopulation and overgrazing.

We developed this programme to rehabilitate the environment and decongest these areas by taking the people who have demonstrated their ability, commitment and passion for farming on communal land. There are many out there. These people will be put on state-owned land, including Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (Plas) land. There is a lot of state land which can be allocated to smallholder farmers. We have budgeted about R220 million for this programme this financial year.

We will buy land and relocate these farmers so that they can plant grass, trees, etc to ensure that the land is not degraded.
All these things I’m talking about will come from the Green Paper. We are implementing what is in the Green Paper. So, don’t wait for the White Paper because there will be none.

views expressed in our weekly opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Farmer’s Weekly.

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