Dutch minister calls for SA clarity on land reform and property rights
Dutch foreign affairs minister Stef Blok has called on the SA government to give clarity on the contentious issues of land reform and property rights, which he describes as “very complex and delicate”.
Blok, expected to share notes on Monday with his counterpart, international relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor, as part of the inaugural joint commission for co-operation meeting, said he understood the need to resolve these issues, “in order to promote economic growth and address inequalities”.
His remarks come as the parliamentary committee formulating legislation to amend the constitution to pave the way for expropriation of land without compensation has agreed to extend the deadline for public comment until the end of February.
The bill was published over the festive season and the public did not have sufficient time to comment meaningfully ahead of the initial January 31 deadline.
There are fears that land expropriation without compensation, which is meant to address skewed land ownership dating back to the colonial and apartheid eras, could rattle investors and hurt SA’s already struggling economy.
“We support SA in this process. I have also heard suggestions of possible expropriation without compensation. Careful reflection is needed on a question of this kind,” said Blok.
“Like the SA government, we attach great value to the respect for property rights and the rule of law. When these two are endangered, it will affect existing and potential investors alike. It is important to have clarity on issues like these.”
SA and the Netherlands share strong economic ties and have been co-operating in trade, culture, education, research, water and agriculture, among other areas.
In 2018 Dutch exports to SA were valued at about €1.9bn (R31bn), while SA exports to the Netherlands accounted for about €1.4bn. About 70% of SA’s avocados “goes to the Netherlands, from where they are distributed across Europe”, said Blok.
“Our aim is to enhance our economic relations even further. We can achieve this by working together to reduce trade obstacles, and by facilitating incoming and outgoing trade missions from SA and from the Netherlands. There are over 300 Dutch companies with investments in SA that will benefit from this.”
Blok said he looked forward to the joint commission for co-operation meeting to hear what SA’s priorities will be when the country takes over the chair of the AU in February.
He will also focus on priorities that the countries share. “For instance, it is to our mutual benefit that we enhance the current trade and investments between our countries,” he said.
“Moreover, I want to discuss the relationship between the EU and the AU, two strongly connected continents, especially in the run-up to the ministerial meeting in Kigali in the beginning of March. SA, holding the chairmanship to the AU, is a key interlocutor.”
Blok said he saw great opportunities “for us to work together on issues such as human rights, climate change, cyber security and the international rule of law. These are all areas that affect the wellbeing of both our countries.”
With SA battling a water crisis that has resulted in several provinces declared disaster areas, and led to water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu launching a national water and sanitation master plan in November to address the problem, Blok said co-operation in the water and agriculture sector has been an important element in the Netherlands/SA partnership for many years.
He said the Netherlands will continue to offer “strategic and technical assistance” to Sisulu’s water plan which will cost the state R898bn over the next 10 years. He added that through his country's blue deal project, “we aim to provide 2.5-million people in SA with clean water, by focusing on implementable solutions to local water problems, and through collaboration and capacity building.