Office of ‘land valuer general’ is delaying land reform

Opinion by FF Plus

Office of ‘land valuer general’ is delaying land reform
Office of 'land valuer general' is delaying land reform

The ANC government is trying to create the impression that unwilling sellers are the main reason for why the land reform process failed and that expropriation without compensation is, therefore, inevitable.

The reality, however, is that officials’ incompetence, among other things, is delaying the process.

Former President Kgalema Motlanthe also states in his report on land reform that inadequate policies, poor implementation of existing legislation and corruption among officials are the main reasons for why land reform is not progressing as it should.

The entire process has been delayed even further with the establishment of the Office of the Land Valuer General (OVG), who has since 2016 had the final say regarding the value of land in a land claim.

From the answers provided by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform (Maite Nkoana-Mashabane) to written questions posed by the FF Plus about the functionality of the OVG, it is evident that the OVG is nothing but a bottleneck that creates even greater delays in the process.

From the 827 valuation applications that the OVG received in the first year after it became operational in 2016 (2016/17), less than half (only 409) have been finalised.

During the 2017/18 financial year, the number of valuations increased sharply to 1 363, of which only 749 have been finalised. That means that only 1 158 of the 2 190 valuations that the OVG received since its establishment in 2016 have been finalised.

This has far reaching implications for farmers whose hands are tied by a land claim as they cannot really keep farming nor plan for their future.

According to the government, the purpose of the OVG was to determine “reasonable and fair” compensation for land by means of its own valuations. In practice, however, there is great dissatisfaction with the OVG’s valuations as in some cases, the valuation is as low as 45% of the department’s valuation.

The reason for this is that the OVG has a set of subjective criteria that greatly influences its valuations. According to the written reply by the Minister, these criteria are as follows:

Current use of the property.
History of the acquisition and the use of the property.
Market value of the property.
Extent of direct state investment and subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the property.
And purpose of the acquisition.

The OVG’s decisions and determinations in this regard are one sided and final and cause great confusion and dissatisfaction among landowners, because in many cases it is unclear why the OVG’s valuations are so much lower than the market value of the land.

Furthermore, in her written reply the Minister states that the average turnaround time for processing and finalising a valuation by the OVG is 50 working days, which is just over two months.

From correspondence that the FF Plus has in its possession, it is evident that even the staff at the Land Claims Commissioner’s Office is frustrated with the delays caused by the OVG, in some cases, eight months have gone by without an outcome and it is clearly a struggle just to establish communication with the staff at the OVG.

The government must stop casting suspicion on farmers in an attempt to hide its share in the failure of the land reform programme. The OVG in particular needs urgent attention and its capacity and efficiency will have to be addressed and improved if the land reform process is to be executed speedily and successfully.

Read the original article in Afrikaans by Dr Pieter Groenewald on FF Plus

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SOURCEFF Plus