Government’s plan to fast-track land reform

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says the department will use the existing legal framework to fast track land reform.

The Minister said this when she tabled the department’s budget vote speech in the Old Assembly Chamber in Parliament on Friday.

Parliament is currently considering public submissions on the proposal for the Constitution to be amended to pave the way for land expropriation without compensation.

“While the Parliamentary process unfolds, the department will continue to advance land reform through existing programmes of land restitution, land redistribution and land tenure reform using the existing constitutional provisions to argue for limited compensation including in cases such as the return of land to labour tenants and farm dwellers,” she said.

The Minister said 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 during the current financial year, the department intends to introduce the Regulation of the 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 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,” she said.

Tabling her budget vote speech, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said in order to improve efficiencies in the land restitution program, the department will seek 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 settlement of claims,” she said.

Update on the land restitution process

The Minister said, meanwhile, that to date government has settled 80 664 claims which have benefited 2.1 million beneficiaries at a cost of R40 billion, inclusive of financial compensation to beneficiaries.

She said 163 463 of these are female-headed households.

“To date we have restored 3.5 million hectares of land which can be used as a catalyst to change the lives of our people who are still stuck in the second economy.

“Land without the requisite support fails to unlock the full value chain,” she said.

In the year ahead, the department plans to acquire 98 100 hectares of land through the Pro-active Land Acquisition Strategy and through financial partnerships as part of Operation Phakisa initiatives.

She said labour tenants and farm dwellers will be prioritised.

“The department will pilot 18 farms to support the accelerated land development and redistribution initiative to support peri-urban agriculture and the revitalisation of rural towns.

“The total budget of R1.2 billion is set aside for the acquisition of land to support these programmes,” she said. –

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