Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. Picture: NTSWE MOKOENA
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. Picture: NTSWE MOKOENA

The introduction of the Regulation of Agricultural Land Bill will be key in fast-tracking land reform, says Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

The bill, published for comment in 2017, has three objectives: to establish a register of ownership of agricultural land; to prohibit foreign owners from acquiring agricultural land in SA (an ownership cap of 12,000ha on foreigners has been suggested); and to set ceilings on the ownership of agricultural land.

In February, in a move that spooked investors, Parliament voted in favour of an EFF motion for land expropriation without compensation. The constitutional review committee was tasked to review section 25 of the Constitution and report back to Parliament in August. Last week the deadline for written submissions was extended to June 15.

"We intend to introduce in this financial year the Regulation of Agricultural Land Bill, which, if implemented in conjunction with the Property Valuation Act of 2014, will give impetus to section 25 on the principle of just and equitable compensation," the minister said in her budget vote speech in Parliament.

"The Regulation of Agricultural Land Bill seeks to provide a framework to introduce land ownership ceilings on agricultural land.

"We will continue to use the full potential of existing laws to fast-track rural development and land reform."

Nkoana-Mashabane said while the parliamentary process unfolded, the department would continue to pursue land reform programmes using the existing constitutional provisions. These included limited compensation and the return of land to labour tenants and farm dwellers.

"The establishment of the office of the valuer-general and the utilisation of the current provisions of the Constitution have already begun to yield positive results on the prices paid for land acquisition," she said.

"To improve efficiencies in the land restitution programme we commit to strengthen the capacity of the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights. This will include consideration of a suitable operating model, a redesign of the claims process to reduce the unnecessary bureaucracy to fast-track the settlement of claims."

Since 1994, the government has acquired 4.8-million hectares for R17bn. Of the total, 4-million hectares was agricultural land and 779,000ha was allocated to labour tenants and farm dwellers. She said 98,100ha would be acquired under Operation Phakisa initiatives, which will prioritise labour tenants and farm dwellers.

The department’s budget for 2018-19 amounts to R10.4bn, rising to R11bn in 2019-20 and R11.7bn in 2020-21.