NEWS & ANALYSIS

Minister of Land Reform failed to secure land rights for millions - DA

Zwakele Mncwango says SAHRC must investigate why approximately 18 million people living on communal land without legal tenure

DA to refer Minister of Land Reform to SAHRC for failing to secure land rights for millions

Note to Editors: The following statement was delivered by DA KZN Leader, Zwakele Mncwango MPL, at a press conference to update public  on the on-going land public hearings, today. Mr Mncwango was  joined by DA Member of the NCOP, Vusumzi Magwebu MP, and DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform,Ken Robertson MP.

The DA has today written to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), referring the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform and requesting an investigation into the lack of protection for South Africans with insecure land rights.

For more than two decades the ANC-led government has failed to implement Section 25(6) of the Constitution, leaving the approximately 18 million people living on communal land without legal tenure.

DA Members of Parliament represented on the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) have heard the inputs of people from Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Limpopo and the Free State. The underlying sentiment, no matter your stance on whether the Constitution should be changed or not, is that land reform needs to happen and at an accelerated pace.

However, it is deeply disturbing that the ANC and EFF are using the land hearings that are currently taking place across the country to continue to lie to South Africans about land ownership.

The truth is simple: The ANC and EFF believe that the state should be the sole owner of land and the people must be tenants on state land. This means that South Africans - the very people who attend the land hearings in the desperate hope that they will soon become owners of land - will have no security of tenure.

The DA is vehemently opposed to this. We believe the people should own the land and not the government.

The role of traditional leadership

As the hearings prepare to move to Kwazulu-Natal and North West, the DA wants to reiterate its belief that traditional leaders have an important part to play in South Africa and that they should be consulted on matters related to land. However, people that currently reside on communal land should be protected.

Last week, King Goodwill Zwelithini stated that the Ingonyama Trust supports the security of tenure for the people who live on the land. We would agree with Zwelithini on this point, but would further state that we want the people who live on that land to have individual ownership of their land through individual title deeds.

As a regular participant in meetings convened by Isilo and chiefs, there is a general view that the Ingonyama Trust Act must not be repealed but must be amended to ensure that individual land ownership becomes a reality in Kwazulu-Natal. We do not share the ANC and EFF’s view that the state should be the sole owner of land and everyone else tenants on state land.

The ANC and EFF recently stated that communal land will not be touched in the process of expropriation without compensation. However, people living in communal land areas have been deprived of land rights that are guaranteed to them under the Constitution and other legislation. Both parties are purposefully dodging the issue of tenure security issues in communal areas. These areas should not be left out of the debate on land if we want to reach a sustainable solution.

Government has failed in their Constitutional responsibilities

During the land hearings, we have heard countless stories of how people have been failed by the ANC-led land reform programme, waiting decades for justice. The ANC has failed to prioritise land reform with its budget being surpassed by VIP protection spending.

The government, through successive ministers of Rural Development and Land Reform, have wantonly failed to protect the approximately 18 million people living on communal land, without legal tenure, even though Section 25 of the Constitution clearly sets out their responsibility to do so.

Section 25(6) is clear on the matter, stating:

“[A] person or community whose tenure of land is legally insecure as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to tenure which is legally secure or to comparable redress”.

Section 7 of the Constitution further mandates the state to ‘respect, protect, promote and fulfil’ the rights contained in the Bill of Rights.

The High-Level Panel (HLP) report, commissioned by Parliament and chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe, noted this obligation to ‘respect’ places a duty on the state not to impair a person’s existing right to tenure security.

In the light of the government’s utter failure to protect people’s security of tenure, the DA will refer the Minister to the SAHRC. We will request that this Chapter 9 institution launch an investigation into the lack of protection for South Africans with insecure land rights with a focus on determining the extent to which the organs of the state breached the duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights prescribed in Section 25(6).

The DA will not relent pressure on the government to ensure that people’s land rights are protected.

Implement the Constitution

The DA believes that it is not the Constitution that failed the people. The ANC has failed the people.

The ANC-led government has failed to protect South African’s land rights and now they are using the prospect of expropriation without compensation to hide their failures.

Indeed, many participants in the land hearings have used the platform to express their frustration and disillusionment about how land reform has been mismanaged by the ANC-led government rather than the merits of changing Section 25 of the Constitution.

We will continue to use every resource at our disposal to tell South Africans the truth about land reform and uncover the lies of the ANC and EFF. We will not allow the Constitution to be scapegoated and blamed for the decades-long failures of land reform programmes.

Issued by the DA, 12 July 2018