Land expropriation key for SA inclusive growth, writes Ramaphosa

The President pens an article to explain some of the issues around the “most devastating” South African economic inequalities created by the skewed land ownership.


CYRIL RAMAPHOSA


It is nearly 25 years since SA became a democracy, yet the promise of that historic achievement has not yet been fully realised by the millions of people who are unemployed and live in poverty.

Despite significant progress, many of the economic disparities of the apartheid era persist. After a decade of slow growth, the South African government has embarked on a big investment drive to stimulate economic growth and create new jobs.

It has begun to tackle the obstacles to growth by working towards greater policy certainty, shifting resources towards infrastructure investment, reducing bureaucratic inefficiency and stabilising public finances.

Among the greatest obstacles to growth is the severe inequality between black and white South Africans. For the South African economy to reach its full potential, it is therefore necessary to significantly narrow gaps in income, skills, assets and opportunities.

One of the areas where this disparity is most devastating is in the ownership and access to land. As the World Bank has observed, “SA’s historical, highly skewed distribution of land and productive assets is a source of inequality and social fragility.”

It argues that, after skills, current distribution of land is the second-biggest constraint to poverty reduction and shared prosperity. In order for SA to secure the future, and to ensure equitable and just human development opportunities as envisioned by our first democratic president, Nelson Mandela, reform of patterns of land ownership in SA is a critical issue.

That is why the government has embarked on a process of accelerated land reform and why South Africans are currently engaged in an intense debate over the prospect of expropriation of land without compensation as one among several measures to achieve this reform. Unfortunately, several commentators have confined their engagement on this matter to soundbites and not to the substance.

The “land question” goes back more than a century to the 1913 Natives Land Act, which provided legislative form to a process of dispossession that had been under way since colonial times. It confined the country’s African population to slightly more than 10 per cent of the land, reserving the rest for the white minority. These laws alienated the majority of our citizens from their places of birth and burial, stripped them of their assets and deprived them of their livelihoods.

Even now, the dispossession of land continues to determine the prospects of millions of South Africans, and it holds back the country’s economic development. By restricting the ownership of land to a small minority, the apartheid regime ensured that one of the country’s most valuable economic resources would be severely underutilised.

During this year the department of rural development and land reform released results of a land audit to establish land ownership patterns. Among other insights forthcoming from the land audit, it emerged that:

Individuals, companies and trusts own 90 per cent of land in SA, and the state 10 per cent

Of this 90%, individuals own 39%, trusts 31%, companies 25% and community-based organisations 4%, with co-ownership at 1%.

In terms of farms and agricultural holdings, 97% of the total agricultural holdings are owned by 7% of landowners

Agricultural land ownership by race: 72% of farms and agricultural holdings are owned by whites, 15% by coloured citizens, 5% by Indians, and 4% by Africans

For decades, the country’s assets — its land, its minerals, its human resources, its enterprises — have been owned, controlled and managed in a way that has prevented the extraction of their full value. Our intention is to unlock the economic potential of land. Without the recognition of the property rights of all our people, we will not overcome inequality, and without giving the poor the means to productively farm the land, we will not defeat poverty.

In promoting accelerated land reform, the ruling ANC, recently resolved to propose a constitutional amendment that would make explicit the conditions under which land could justifiably be expropriated without compensation. While the current clause in the constitution dealing with property rights does not necessarily prohibit such a measure, the ANC’s view is that an amendment would provide certainty and clarity.

The proposed amendment would need to reinforce the fundamental principles of the property clause, which, among other things, prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of property and holds that expropriation is possible in the public interest subject to just and equitable compensation. It also says that no provision can impede the process of land reform to redress the results of past racial discrimination.

While a parliamentary committee is at present wrapping up public hearings on this issue and still needs to give consideration to any possible constitutional amendment, there have been several suggestions on when expropriation without compensation may be justified. These include, for instance, unused land, derelict buildings, purely speculative land holdings, or circumstances where occupiers have strong historical rights and title holders do not occupy or use their land, such as labour tenancy, informal settlements and abandoned inner-city buildings.

This is no land grab; nor is it an assault on the private ownership of property. The ANC has been clear that its land reform programme should not undermine future investment in the economy or damage agricultural production and food security. The proposals will not erode property rights, but will instead ensure that the rights of all South Africans, and not just those who currently own land, are strengthened. SA has learnt from the experiences of other countries, both from what has worked and what has not, and will not make the same mistakes that others have made.

The proposal on expropriation without compensation is one element of a broader programme of land reform that seeks to ensure that all citizens can have their land rights recognised, whether they live in communal areas, informal settlements or on commercial farms. It includes the release of well-located urban land for low-cost housing so that the poor can own property and live close to economic opportunities.

For land reform to succeed, it is essential that support is given to beneficiaries of land redistribution through financing, training, market access, irrigation and the provision of seeds, fertiliser and equipment, all of which contribute to the sustainability of emerging agricultural enterprises.

Land reform in SA is a moral, social and economic imperative. By bringing more land into productive use, by giving more South Africans assets and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, the country is creating conditions for greater, more inclusive and more meaningful growth.

First published by theFinancial Times

DA will strangle ANC on land issue

Newly elected DA councillors have all signed commitments to end thecorruption of ANC leaders, bring service to the people and all of themwill strangle the government of the ANC in order to have all the landclaims processes in South Africa fast-tracked, its Mpumalanga leadersaid on Wednesday.

“Every applicant commits themselves to be a candidate and they arecouncillors now and there are requirements for that. First you commityourself to stopping corruption, ensuring better services for all andthat is based on our manifesto that as a party we are really committedto stopping corruption and bringing services to the people as well asaddressing unemployment,” provincial chairman James Masango told013NEWS on Wednesday.

“So, we will fast-track the land claims by taking that intoconsideration. But you see, the biggest problem now is that since theland claims were opened in 1998 a lot of people have not got thoseland and we always ask why and that’s because government doesn’t havethe money to give the land claimants [to buy and maintain the land].Money is squandered, so let’s end corruption first,” Masango said.

Masango said seeing skin colour will not work in South Africa and hisparty saw the problem as being the “corruption after corruption” ofofficials.

“Here in Mpumalanga I know a lot of people that have claimed land, askthem where is that land now and ask officials to answer. Very sheepishanswers,” he blasted.

Therefore his Mpumalanga councillors will now make sure that each andevery decision made by the ANC in government “is it a decision thataddresses unemployment, does that decision bring services to thepeople or does it end or create corruption?”

The party struggled to increase its voter support in Mpumalanga in the 2016 Local Government Election and suffered losses in some of the municipalities like Thembisile Hani and Nkomazi.

(edited by ZK)