Is this the solution to accelerate SA land reform?

Land expropriation without compensation is the talk of the town in South African political circles. Academics, media personalities, politicians and even entertainers are all chipping in with ideas on how to solve the South African land dispute.

This dispute is not new and various interventions have been enacted into law and implemented with varying degrees of success.

A year ago, the National Forum set up a dialogue around land redistribution and restitution and out of that gathering a 10 point plan was adopted as the panacea to the complex land question. Key dialogue leaders at the National Forum were: Retired Justice Albie SachsProfessor Bongani MajolaProfessor Mathole MotshekgaAdvocate Leks MakuaRetired Justice Johan van der WesthuizenProfessor Frans ViljoenVictor MavhidulaMakgatho MotshekgaKoogan PillayElson Kgaga and Advocate Hanif Vally.

The National Forum envisioned the 10-point plan being effected within the context of the country’s National Development Plan’s Vision 2030. The plan was drawn up to provide a roadmap for the country to 2030. Its central aims being to reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality.

A year on, what has been done to turn these recommendations into concrete action? How has the media played a role in disseminating information around the land dispute? Are journalists equipped with enough knowledge to objectively and exhaustively inform the nation and the world at large about the various scenarios available to the South African people?

In a bid to solve the media problem, Professor Ruth Hall created a workshop for journalist around the land issue and MathsGee has used the publicly available material to create an online version of the course.

Aspects of the 10-point plan include:

  1. A human rights approach to land redistribution, grounded in the effective implementation of Section 25 of the Constitution. This could still guarantee a life of dignity, equality and freedom for all citizens.
  2. Existing land reform legislation is not effectively implemented. The Land Claims Commission and Land Claims Court, which were created through the Restitution of Land Rights Act (1994), have not been effective. Unnecessary bureaucratic bungling, significant corruption and limited expert skills have been exacerbated by cadre deployment. This is the practice of appointing party political loyalists to government positions irrespective of ability. In addition, these institutions have yet to be made more accessible and more representative.
  3. The possibility of adopting further laws to accelerate land reform is not being used. This is the case even though Section 25(8) of the Constitution specifically indicates that it can be done.
  4. The possibility of repealing existing legislation that’s inconsistent with or hampering land reform is not being pursued. This should be rectified.
  5. There is a need for national legislation on expropriation. A bill is before Parliament – the Expropriation Bill – but it’s been introduced late and processed without urgency. The possibility of effecting appropriate amendments to the 1975 Expropriation Actshould also be considered.
  6. There should be improved communication and coordination between various government departments. Currently, the location of relevant land reform mandates and competencies are spread across several departments. These should be aligned to accelerate the pace of the process.
  7. A draft bill on cultural and spiritual access to land must be developed to enable citizens’ access to cemeteries and related holy sites where their family members are buried.
  8. The courts should pronounce on the meaning of “just and equitable” compensation in Section 25 of the Constitution, to provide for better definition and interpretation of this provision within the context of land reform.
  9. Communal Property Associations, community and traditional leader tensions must be resolved through meaningful engagement. Communication channels must be open, all role-players included and all relevant information made available to every stakeholder. Furthermore, all affected parties must be able to influence the decisions taken. In addition, skills training for officials dealing with land restitution is necessary, whilst an updated land audit is required.
  10. There is need for a Land and Economy Convention, similar to the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). This was held to negotiate the country’s peaceful transition to democracy. A role for the new convention would be to address poverty, inequality and unemployment. The aim would be to restore citizens’ dignity, strengthen the economy and advance democracy.