Leaked land plans disturbing - DA

Lindiwe Mazibuko says indications are of an assault on constitutionally guaranteed property rights

Green Paper:  DA calls on minister to table policy document

Media reports over the past week indicate that the ANC's government's long-awaited green paper on Rural Development and Land Reform has been leaked to the certain sections of the public. The green paper - which was meant to be tabled as early as March this year - has been the subject of much concern and speculation, both amongst South Africa's rural and agricultural stakeholders as well as internationally. The policy has wide-ranging consequences for the South African economy, and for our prospects of uplifting and improving the lot of the poorest of the poor, and as such uncertainty over its contents must be brought to an end. Rural Development & Land Reform Minster Gugile Nkwinti should table the policy for public comment as a matter of urgency.

The DA believes that successful and productive land reform can and must be achieved in South Africa. It is imperative that we reverse the country's legacy of skewed land-ownership patterns; however this will only achieved if the real problems facing the process are examined, instead of excuses being sought at every turn.

The picture painted by reports on the leaked green paper is a startling one: proposals for centralised state control of land; the creation of a tribunal with powers to subpoena, prosecute, and confiscate; limitations being placed on the amount of land that individuals can own and the expropriation of foreign-owned land into the state's hands should ‘regulations be contravened'. The Democratic Alliance (DA) is particularly concerned by allegations that the policy seeks to side-step, or indeed violate, the constitutional protection of property rights - the cornerstone of any free and thriving economy.

In addition to the disturbing revelations surrounding the government's intention to enforce a moratorium on the ownership of land by foreign citizens - a draconian measure clearly intended to distract from the state's own failure to implement its own land reform targets - it is also alleged that for private land, the government plans to implement ‘land-ceilings' on the amount of land that can be owned by private individuals.

The purchase of South African land by non-citizens is not significant enough to warrant policy interventions. According to a study commissioned by the former Minister of Land Affairs, Thoko Didiza in 2004, the ownership of land by foreigners did not exceed 3%. Although more recent figures do not seem to be available, it is unlikely that this figure has increased significantly, given the global financial crisis which took hold in the late 2000s.

The green paper's mooted three-tier system proposes significant interventions regulating the acquisition of land:

·         Multi-tier pricing regime: expropriation based on capped land prices, instead of the willing-buyer-willing-seller principle; a land tax subjected to very large holdings to be utilised for land reform; and the retention of the willing-buyer-willing-seller model for ‘private transactions' only.

·         New valuation regime: an independent valuer who is registered with the Council of Valuers  - a body appointed by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform - would determine whether to waive market value in land purchases.

The DA had hoped that the government's policies on rural development and land reform would seek genuinely to uplift the lot of rural people, to address inequality, and to facilitate real opportunities for sustainable development. Instead, it appears that we will be presented with a rash of draconian interventions whose intention has more to do with seeking political scapegoats for its own failures and vesting more and more control in the hands of the state.

Statement by Lindiwe Mazibuko, MP, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, October 14 2010

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