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South Africa
Politics | Agriculture - Nutrition | Economy - Development

South Africa to restrict land ownership

South African President Jacob Zuma launching a rural development and land reform programme in Limpopo Province

© GCIS/afrol News
afrol News, 24 March
- Reviewing land reforms since the end of apartheid, Minister Gugile Nkwinti says government has failed to succeed redistributing ownership. A new focus on sales and ownership restrictions was to rectify this, but nationalisation would be ruled out.

South Africa's Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti in parliament today revealed new plans of a major overhaul of the country's land restitution and redistribution policy to speed up land reform. The move would however require a change of the constitution.

Since the end of apartheid, more than 6 million hectares of land that had been transferred to emerging farmers through the country's current land reform programme. But Minister Nkwinti said he had found that the majority of these transfers had "not created any economic benefit for many of the new owners."

The land reform has been seen as key to rectify unjust structures established under the apartheid era. In the early 1990s, almost 90 percent of South Africa's productive agricultural lands were owned by the white minority. Post-apartheid authorities promised to buy one third of these lands by 2014, with an aim of resettling black farmers there.

But despite relatively large government expenditures in land reform, the results have been meagre, Minister Nkwinti concluded. And if government was to achieve its 2014 goal, "the monetary implications to transfer the remaining 19 million hectares of land" would amount to around rand 72 billion (euro 7.3 billion).

The current land reform model, - based on a willing buyer willing seller scheme - "is the result of institutional weaknesses in overall land management, policy and legislation," Mr Nkwinti told South African MPs. It was not sustainable, he concluded.

New measures to revitalise South Africa's land reform therefore were needed. Minister Nkwinti announced ideas on how restrictions on land sales and ownership could secure progress.

His Ministry was proposing that state land be under lease-hold and private land be under freehold with limited extent while foreign ownership should be linked to productivity and partnership models with Sou

South Africa's Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti

© SA govt/afrol News
th African citizens. Mr Nkwinti said the system would be based on "a categorisation model informed by land use needs at the level of household, small holder and commercial farming."

He further announced that the aims of land reform should be changed from quantitative measures of acreage transferred to qualitative measures. The new principal aims of land reform should be a "de-racialisation of the rural economy," the inclusion of gender, race, and class in land allocation policies and a larger focus on national food security.

The current land reform system had placed emphasis on hectares at the expense of development and food security. "This has contributed to declining productivity on farms, decrease in employment in the agricultural sector and deepened poverty in the country side," Mr Nkwinti said.

After addressing the South African parliament, Minister Nkwinti was asked on earlier government leaks that land nationalisation was being planned. "We have not spoken at all about any nationalisation of land. So let us kill that debate, it is not there," the Minister told 'SAPA' news agency.

The speech by the Land Reform Minister was welcomed by a majority of South African MPs, approving the ministry's budget proposal. The conservative Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition party however held government was only trying to cover up its failure to allocate budget funds to implement the generally favoured land reform.

The DA's Mpowele Swathe told MPs he was "concerned about the inadequate budget" allocated land reform. "Poor land claimants pinned their hopes on the budget for the 2010/11 financial year to address outstanding claims," Mr Swathe said. "Unfortunately this insufficient budget will continue to impede progress and dangerously test the patience of land claimants and farmers alike. It is unacceptable to keep people waiting this long for justice to be done."

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