Land: Problem lies with ANC not constitution – Ken Robertson

DA MP says inefficient state not doing enough about transfer of state-owned property

Amending the Constitution will not address ANC’s failed attempts at land restitution

27 February 2018

Let me be clear from the onset.

The ANC government does not have a land problem, we have a problem with the way the ANC is handling land.

People were dispossessed of their land and their dignity by the discriminatory laws of the past.

A painful past that can never be forgotten. But the ANC’s call for expropriation without compensation is a lazy attempt to divert attention away from the real reasons that lie at the heart of the slow pace of meaningful land reform and restitution.

In March of 2017, the EFF brought a similar motion to the house and the ANC shot it down. The ANC speakers unanimously condemned the suggestion to expropriate without compensation. They used language such as “We totally reject amending section 25 of our constitution” and saying that the ANC does not need the EFFs 6% to amend the constitution and that the ANC reject the EFFs call for land invasion!

They themselves said that we have all the right mechanisms in place to ensure the land reform happens, so what has changed?

South Africa’s constitution recognises the painful historic injustices. The Bill of Rights seeks to ensure that the rights of all citizens are protected. Section 25 protects the right of property ownership but recognises the use of different mechanisms, including expropriation, to ensure the transfer of land occurs but these must be just and equitable and not arbitrary.

As the High-Level Panel report recognises, the government should be focusing on releasing state and SOE owned land and leverage as much of its tangible assets to accommodate the ever-increasing demand for land and financial and economic inclusion.

According to the latest land audit, the state still owns approximately 17 million hectares of property, thus, releasing most of those assets through a fair and efficient process could propel the transfer of land to black ownership, from 8.1 million hectares to more than double that figure in a fraction of the time it would take to expropriate, and without harming the economy.

So, why expropriate without compensation and not release state-owned property? And while doing so continue to uphold section 25 of the Constitution. It is surely the logical place to start.

We don’t need to change the Constitution, we need to implement it and find efficient solutions.

In his budget speech, Minister Gigaba mentioned that 2 851 land claims will be settled in the MTEF, which will cost taxpayers R18 billion and equates to 291 000 ha of property.

But currently, written questions to the Department of Public Works revealed that the Department sits with 1.9 million hectares of surplus land lying idle, consisting of 12000 properties throughout the country.

The problem is that this inefficient State is not doing enough about the transfer of state-owned property.

The Adriaanse family were awarded land after they claimed 96 hectares of state-owned property next to the Cape Town International Airport. In 2016 the state through the department of public works indicated that they lack the resources to finalise the claim. I again remind you of the 1.9 million ha of land lying idly and owned by the public works.

Over 4000 farms ownerships are yet to be transferred to beneficiaries.  There is a clear reluctance by the state to hand over state land.

The devastating failure rate of 90% of land reform projects throughout South Africa is another reason why the constitutional changes cannot serve South Africa’s best interests.

In comparison, the DA-run Western Cape far exceeds the rest of the country in terms of land reform successes as we showed a remarkable success rate of 62%.

Proof that implementation, innovation and financial discipline are capable of yielding results we need.

We must accelerate land reform and expedite the handing over of title deeds. We can do this by passing overarching legislation to give effect to Section 25 of the Constitution which explicitly provides for equitable land distribution.

The Constitution is not the impediment to land reform and this motion merely buys the ANC a ‘get out of jail free’ card to explain away their 24 years of failed policies and implementation.

Issued by Ken Robertson, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Rural Development & Land Reform, 27 February 2018