Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Accelerating land reform has become urgent and the government has set aside R4.2bn for the acquisition of about 291,000ha of strategically located land, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said in his budget speech.

Land reform has dominated political debate in recent months amid talk of expropriation without compensation, which the government is pushing to implement. There are fears that such a policy will spook investors. The Constitution will need to be amended for the policy to come into effect.

The EFF, which has long called for expropriation without compensation and for its supporters to occupy land, previously offered the ANC its 6% representation in Parliament, which would give it the required two-thirds majority threshold to amend section 25 of the Constitution, or the property clause.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that expropriation without compensation would be handled in a responsible manner to ensure that the economy and food security are not adversely affected.

Gigaba said: "Accelerating land reform has become urgent and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has set aside R4.2bn for the acquisition of about 291,000ha of strategically located land."

Over the medium term, an allocation of R5.6bn to the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme will provide about 435,000 subsistence and smallholder farmers with inputs such as farm equipment, fencing, fertilisers, seedlings and improved extension services.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries aims to support 450 profitable black commercial producers over a five-year period. Over the medium term, R10.8bn will be allocated to settle 2,851 land restitution claims, with R8.8bn set aside for land redistribution.

The government will acquire about 291,000ha of strategically located land, with the goal of creating farms that are productive and profitable, according to the budget documents.

"Land restitution remains a key government priority and the department [of rural development and land reform] intends to intensify its efforts in this regard over the medium term," the Budget Review states.

The Office of the Valuer-General, which has been operational since August 2015 and is responsible for ensuring the efficient acquisition and equitable valuation of land, and that government acquires land for resettlement at fair and equitable prices, will be allocated about R226m over the medium term for land valuations to be done for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za