Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti, left, in discussion with farmer Butisi Mpongoshe. He says the new land reform plan saved the government R50m in 2016. Picture: THE HERALD
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti, left, in discussion with farmer Butisi Mpongoshe. He says the new land reform plan saved the government R50m in 2016. Picture: THE HERALD

The decision to abandon the willing-buyer, willing-seller approach to land reform was beginning to bear fruit, with the government saving R50m in 2016, while at the same time acquiring more land for redistribution purposes, Rural and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said on Tuesday.

Speaking during the state of the nation debate in Parliament, Nkwinti emphasised that the willing-buyer, willing-seller approach would no longer be used. The government would instead purchase land at the value determined by the valuer-general. This, he said, would prevent the government from paying higher costs and fast-track land reform.

THE VALUER-GENERAL IS DRAFTING THE STANDARDS, THAT WILL INFORM FUTURE LAND PURCHASES THE EMPHASIS HERE IS ON FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE IN THE STRUCTURE, SYSTEMS … AND PATTERNS OF OWNERSHIP

The government is under pressure to complete the land reform programme. In 2016, Parliament passed the Expropriation Bill, paving the way for the government to pay for land at a value determined by the valuer-general. The bill also allows for expropriation of land for the "public interest", ending the willing-buyer, willing-seller approach to land reform.

Nkwinti said SA still did not have valuation standards in line with other parts of the world. The valuer-general was drafting the standards that will inform future purchases, he said.

The valuer-general had also entered into an agreement with the University of Cape Town to train students on the new criteria to valuate land value. Previously, only market value was taken into account.

The valuer-general takes into account five key factors contained in the constitution, rather than confining the process to only the market value of the property. The factors include current use of the property; history of the acquisition and the use of the property; extent of direct state involvement and subsidy in the acquisition; beneficial capital improvement of the property and the purpose of the acquisition.

Nkwinti said the ANC was also working on legislation that would state that land owned by the government should be transferred freely to the people. He said the Cape Town metro was the only municipality charging for land to return to claimants, which frustrated radical economic transformation.

Earlier in the debate, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said that the ANC was unapologetic about its stance of prioritising the black majority in its transformative programmes.

"We also have a historical backlog of a skewed economic system characterised by exploitation and imbalanced distribution of wealth along racial lines. We are well into the third decade of the democratic dispensation in SA and we cannot continue to lament the legacy of our divided past. The radical socio economic transformation is a vehicle through which we accelerate the process of transferring economic power to the black majority."

Radebe said it was in view of the slow pace of transformation that President Jacob Zuma had introduced the radical socio economic transformation programme. "The emphasis here is on fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the disenfranchised black people."

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said noble causes like land reform and black economic empowerment (BEE) had been "corrupted for the benefit of the ANC elite".

"When the president talks about accelerating land reform, what he really means is more dodgy deals for ANC cronies. He’s talking about narrow-based land deals like the Limpopo farm that Nkwinti lined up for his ANC friends. [In that deal] R130m of public money went to enriching two ANC cronies while 31 farm workers went unpaid and a productive farm fell into disrepair.

"When the president talks about BEE and the Black Industrialists Programme, what he means is a scheme to make 100 of his closest friends and family very rich, " said Maimane.

The debate continues on Wednesday with Zuma due to reply on Thursday.

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