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DA rejects Land Reform Panel’s “high-risk, low-reward” report

by Thandeka Mbabama MP - DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development

The Democratic Alliance (DA)  believes that legal and thorough land reform is essential in South Africa. However, as all indicators make clear, multiple failures and corruption of the ANC government over 25 years have brought land reform to its knees, and now the political play to expropriate land is a last desperate bandage on a very serious injury.

The DA therefore rejects the outcomes of the multi-disciplinary advisory panel on land reform and agriculture, with regards to land expropriation without compensation and other untenable suggestions it makes. Its suggestions are high-risk, and at best promise low-reward for those in need of meaningful land reform.

The presidential panel, headed by Vuyo Mahlati, was not unanimous in giving the green light for the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution, for the expropriation of land without compensation. The panel’s outcomes therefore should not be seen to unanimously support expropriation of land.

Worse still, the report rejects providing land title and security of tenure to South Africans living on communal land. The DA is highly dismayed by this outcome. Denying title to communal land perpetuates the wrongs of our past, and denies ownership of land to hundreds of thousands of people.

The report’s key recommendations which would be disastrous for our economy and investor confidence if implemented include:

  •     Amending of the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation (not a unanimous finding);
  •     Relocating the department to the Presidency, providing the President greater control over land reform, despite entire departments and ministries of officials employed by the state already to handle this – we believe instead that President Ramaphosa must either trust his ministers and departments, or replace them; and,
  •     Rejecting private titling of communal land, which would potentially deny hundreds of thousands of South Africans the right to own property in their own name.

These are high-risk, low-reward positions for the panel to have taken. The majority endorsement of land expropriation without compensation will further batter our ailing economy, and the suggestion to move land reform to the Presidency will undermine the entire department and the minister, and would move this crucial function to an office without the specializations necessary to execute.

We also cannot understand how an audit of foreign land ownership would advance land reform. The two are unrelated, and such an audit would thus be an enormous waste of limited public money.

The DA will carefully study the full report with a view to tabling a comprehensive alternative, in keeping with our long-held position on advancing land reform without expropriation. We unequivocally support the legal and constitutionally outlined processes for land reform. However, the ANC cannot continue to pin its land reform failures of the past 25 years on the Constitution.

If land reform is not approached correctly, the consequences will be disastrous. The DA will continue to unashamedly fight to protect our Constitution, while ensuring land ownership for more South Africans.

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