NEWS & ANALYSIS

Transcript of Zuma's comments on land reform

President's answer to question in the national assembly, May 27 2010

11. The Leader of the Opposition (DA) to ask the President of the Republic:

How does he reconcile his recent comments at the Black Management Forum on 29 April 2010 about the Government's faster and more pragmatic approach to land reform with his comments that such a policy would be carried out within the ambit of the law?

REPLY:

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, there is no contradiction between faster land reform and the consistent application of the law. Government has recognised that the land reform programmes implemented to date have not been entirely sustainable. They have not provided the anticipated socioeconomic benefits to all the recipients of the programmes. Among other things, this is the result of institutional weaknesses in overall land management policy and legislation. As a result, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform embarked on the development of a Green Paper on the agrarian transformation, rural development and land reform which is currently being finalised for submission to Cabinet.

The Green Paper is intended to culminate in a new land policy framework and an omnibus of legislation which should be a consolidation of all land related laws. While we are in the process of developing legislation linked to the Green Paper process, it is imperative that we find immediate mechanisms to respond to the plight of farm workers and farm dwellers.

We will soon introduce a land tenure Bill which will repeal the Extension of Security of Tenure Act and the Labour Reform (Labour Tenants) Act. This Bill will be informed by the following objectives: to protect the relative rights of farm workers, farm dwellers and land owners; to strengthen the rights of farm dwellers; and to enhance food security through sustained production discipline.

Any new legislation will be developed in line with the Constitution, and will follow the normal Cabinet and Parliamentary processes. I reiterate that the pursuit of a sustainable and accelerated approach to land reform will be carried out within the ambit of the law, and we should still be able to do it faster. I thank you.

The LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Speaker, in a recent court case ruling on a case brought to the Land Claims Court by the FCL Farming, it was stated, and I quote:

There is a disturbing, if not alarming, number of applications being brought to the Land Claims Court against the Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs, the Chief Land Claims Commissioner and the regional land claims commissioners as respondents. These applications follow an ultra familiar and unfortunate pattern. They are prompted because of the failure of the part of the commission and regional land claim commissioners to comply with orders of the court with agreements entered into with land owners and with orders for contempt of court.

This is clearly not within the ambit of the law. What will you do about these institutional failings that are holding land reform and reclamation back?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, I'm certain that what I said does take that into account. That is the reason I said that the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform is working on these matters. I'm sure that those kinds of court appearances and decisions must say to the Minister that there is something that needs to be put right here. That is why he is working on the matter. I'm certain that that will happen.

There are a lot of problems on this matter. It's not just a one-sided problem. Commissioners in different places have been taking decisions. Some people heard very late that they needed to apply. There are many other things that have come in to this one. I'm saying that the Minister is working to look at everything so that we can have an approach that will be less difficult to deal with, in order to correct other things that have not gone well on this matter. That is why we said that the Minister is working on this. As a conclusion of the Green Paper that has been put forward with regards to these matters, it is going to put it in proper channels. Thank you.

The SPEAKER: I thank the hon The President. Hon members, the system is a bit faulty, but I will ask the table staff to help me identify two more supplementary questions.

The LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Speaker, land is a finite resource and is escalating in value all over the world. There is incidentally no such thing as an inflated market value; market value is market value. That landless issue can only properly be addressed by budgeting adequately and insuring that land beneficiaries are using the land productively with necessary post-settlement and extension services, not by nationalising land or imploding the value of the land. Will your government protect the right to own property, and what steps will you take to ensure that the land transformation agenda will ensure increased productivity and combat institutional weaknesses that result in wasted money on court cases?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, there has been no attempt to undermine the rights of those who own property; I don't remember any. There were measures that were taken into account. Indeed, since 1994, these processes have been moving. Gaps and weaknesses have been found. This is what we are trying to correct. I don't think there is an attempt to undermine the rights of those who own land.

What we have been trying to do is to determine how we deal with the land so that citizens of this country are able to all benefit from the land... [Applause.] ...in a manner which is within the context of the law. We have emphasised this. The process that I talked about, that the Minister is working on, is not attempting to undermine the rights. It is actually attempting to streamline the manner in which we deal with this question. I don't think there is anything that has gone wrong. Thank you.

Ms P C NGWENYA-MABILA: Speaker, let me thank the hon President for the response he has given to the house. I believe that information is power. Hon President, with regards to the envisaged legislative reform, including the Green Paper to be tabled by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in due course pertaining to rural development, what is the government doing to assist farm dwellers, especially victims of evictions; land owners who are unable to produce from their land; and the beneficiaries of the land reform and restitution programme? Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, those matters are addressed by the process that the Minister is involved in. I'm sure that at the end of that process, those aspects will be answered. The Minister is specifically dealing with those issues, including the land that has been given back to their rightful owners - land that was productive before it was handed over but no longer productive after the handover. Those are matters that the Minister is addressing. I'm sure we will have lasting solutions on these matters. Thank you.

Ms A STEYN: Speaker, we all understand the question regarding the Green Paper. We are waiting in anticipation, and we are happy for that. The question relating to the court cases is that there are already 19 cases against the department, where they have not paid the land owners. There are 21 cases pending in court at the moment with the same problem. We are asking not around the Green Paper, but around the process in court at the moment where the department does not adhere to court cases. What are you going to do about that?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, does the department not respond to those cases?

Ms A STEYN: Speaker, yes; Mr President, they don't adhere to the ruling of the court cases?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, so they don't adhere to the ruling of the court cases? I don't know the facts. One will need to check on that to determine what the issue is. I don't know the facts about not responding to the issues. As far as I remember, court matters take time. However, I will check as to whether or not the department is responding to those specific issues. But I think issue that you are referring to is where courts have given judgements against the department. Is that what you are referring to?

Hon MEMBERS: Yeah!

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: We will check on that. Thank you very much.

The SPEAKER: Thank you very much hon President. The President will check, and there will be a written response there. Hon members, the last question which has been asked by hon Ramatlakane has been withdrawn.

Hon MEMBERS: Why?

The SPEAKER: You better ask him why. We know why but you better ask him yourselves. Hon members, that concludes Questions to the President. I wish to thank the hon President. [Applause.]

Source: Unrevised transcript, Hansard, May 27 2010

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