Residents build shacks on a piece of land in Ezibeleni. Picture: SIMTEMBILE MGIDI
Residents build shacks on a piece of land in Ezibeleni. Picture: SIMTEMBILE MGIDI

Agricultural industry body Agri SA says the government is largely to blame for the tardy pace of land reform in SA, not the constitution.

The joint constitutional review committee is currently holding public hearings in parliament on the possibility of amending section 25, or the property clause, of the constitution to make it clear how land can be expropriated without compensation.

In its submission during a heated session on Wednesday, Agri SA said there was no need to amend the constitution as it currently provided for expropriation under certain circumstances. The organisation said it was not opposed to expropriation, but was against expropriation of property without compensation.

“It is not the constitution that is failing the people, it is a bureaucratic, inefficient, highly fragmented and unaccountable government system,” said Annelize Crosby, head of agricultural development at Agri SA.

“Various government departments and officials tasked with land reform, agricultural development and providing the necessary support systems are often in conflict with each other. There is little collaboration between provincial and national departments and state institutions, such as the Land Bank, [the department of trade and industry], Agri-Colleges … There is also no alignment in terms of a shared vision and measurable outcomes. The Motlanthe reports confirms this.”

Motlanthe’s review

In November, former president Kgalema Motlanthe tabled a review of key legislation in parliament. His high-level panel proposed that, instead of amending the constitution, the government should use its expropriation powers more boldly, in ways that test the provisions in section 25(3), particularly in relation to unutilised or under-utilised land. The panel also found that a lack of leadership and policy direction, corruption and inadequate budget — budget for land reform is less than 0.4% of the national budget, with less than 0.1% set aside for land redistribution — were to blame for SA’s failed land reform.

MPs, particularly those from the ANC, EFF and UDM, asked why the government should pay for land which was “stolen taken from the people with the barrel of the gun”. “The people [who currently own the land] keep pushing the prices up … the government will end up spending its entire budget on buying land that was stolen,” said UDM MP Mncedisi Filtane.

Crosby argued that section 25 as it currently stands provides the state with the necessary legislative powers to ensure that land reform takes place in an orderly way and according to prescribed processes. She emphasised that expropriation with some form of compensation was an internationally accepted approach.

“The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the UN published a guide on international best practice for expropriation. The guide requires, among other things, clear and transparent procedures for forced acquisition of property, and compensation that will ensure the affected persons are not worse off after expropriation than they were before. It further states that affected persons must not only be compensated for the loss of land but also for improvements made and for the disruption that accompanies expropriation … If SA were to scrap the equitability principle, we will be out of step with most African countries.”

The panel found that a lack of leadership and policy direction, corruption and inadequate budget — budget for land reform is less than 0.4% of the national budget, with less than 0.1% set aside for land redistribution — were to blame for SA’s failed land reform

In his submission to the committee, National African Farmers Union’s president Motsepe Matlala called for nationalisation of all land in SA, but said this should exclude buildings or permanent fixtures. He claimed nationalisation of land was the order of the day in most countries including those in Europe.

“We believe that our proposed measures, nationalisation of land and our other proposed interventions will help de-racialise the land question and enable government to, at last, move forward in creating a more equitable agricultural sector and transforming SA,” said Matlala.

Inevitably, the hearings have been racially charged. Earlier, union federation Cosatu said it condemned “the immature and racist attacks by the EFF directed at our parliamentary co-ordinator … Matthew Parks during [the] expropriation without compensation public hearings in parliament.”

“Some inconsequential EFF MP and her leader Floyd Shivambu accused … Parks of siding with white monopoly capital and serving white interests because he is also white,” Cosatu said. “These moral cretins and political idiots said this after … Parks communicated Cosatu’s position of supporting the expropriation of land without compensation but opposing the changing of section 25 of the constitution.”

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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