Trevor Manuel. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Trevor Manuel. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel on Thursday queried the government’s push to amend section 25 of the constitution to provide for expropriation of land without compensation, the latest prominent South African to do so.

Manuel said research shows SA is well on its way to meeting its land reform targets set by the National Development Plan (NDP). This, he said, is being ignored by those pushing for the constitutional amendments.

He referred to a study by the University of Stellenbosch’s Bureau for Economic Research (BER) published earlier this year, which found that SA has achieved 67% of the land reform targets it set in the plan.

Manuel, who chaired the National Planning Commission that drafted the NDP, was addressing the Centre for Development and Enterprise’s webinar, themed SA and the next five years: how do we resolve our political and economic crises?”

He said the plan drew from a few strands of life in SA, and each chapter offered more detail.

Of the 23.3 million hectares committed to land reform in the NDP’s integrated and inclusive rural economy chapter, 15.56-million hectares or 67%, had been redistributed, by September 2020 according to the BER. The study also found that:

 

  • 4.86-million hectares had been redistributed via government programmes to black, coloured and Indian South Africans;
  • 3.76-million hectares had been redistributed via restitution;
  • farmland acquired by the state through the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy [PLAS] programme and others amounted to 2.46-million hectares;
  • restitution through financial compensation (rural land only) accounted for 2.34-million hectares;
  • 1.51-million hectares went to private purchases in the open market without state assistance; and
  • 0.62-million hectares were acquired by the state for non-agri redistribution purposes.

“Now this is quite remarkable because if you look at the kind of debates that the country lives through in respect of the amendments to section 25 of the constitution, you will not for a moment believe that we have advanced two-thirds of the way on where we want to be,” said Manuel.

“And what I think is important from this entire experience, is that evidence be used to inform policy-making.”

He indicated support for the statement by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation a week ago, which suggested that the ANC had deviated from its mission in respect of understanding land reform in a nonracial, democratic SA.

“So these are issues of fundamental importance, but I draw attention to the fact that if you merely track what the BER has done, then I think it helps us to understand what the nature of the challenge is. Why are we putting so much energy into a matter which seems to be well taken care of? That needs to be advanced by involving both current owners and future owners.

“Why do we pretend that nothing is happening in this terrain?”

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