Historic transfer of 117 title deeds in Stellenbosch, with help from Johann Rupert, FMF

JOHANNESBURG — As the land debate in South Africa rages on, the likes of the Free Market Foundation think that they have a solution to this problem. Part of that solution lies in giving people ownership of land through title deeds. Currently, the governing ANC is mulling letting citizens occupy land that is state-owned, in effect preventing them from owning the land they live on. Title deeds, then, have the added benefit of bolstering people’s wealth by providing them with assets that they own and control – a key tenet to protecting the right to own property. – Gareth van Zyl

By Free Market Foundation*

On the 16th January an historic occasion took place in the Stellenbosch Town Hall. Under the Free Market Foundation’s Khaya Lam (My Home) initiative, Mrs Gaynor Rupert, wife of businessman Mr Johann Rupert, handed out 117 full ownership titles together with the Stellenbosch executive mayor Cllr Gesie van Deventer to tenants of council properties. The beneficiaries for the deeds are from Kylemore, Le Roux, Cloetesville, Khayamandi and Franschhoek. The oldest beneficiary is 87 years old.

Mrs Rupert spoke about the importance of home ownership to previously deprived black citizens of South Africa. These are the first of 1,000 titles Mr Rupert has sponsored to help bring about true transformation through home ownership to the poorest people living in his home town. She said, “JR sends his regards from Switzerland and regrets he cannot attend in person. It is an important cause for every South African to have secure land and to help others to help themselves. We are looking forward to helping with the next 1000”.

These 117 residents will enter the Town Hall as tenants and walk out as home owners with full freehold title. This is the first step towards real economic empowerment.

Cllr van Deventer said, “In South Africa, the ability to be able to own property is considered a basic right. Worldwide there is a trend that shows a clear relationship between property ownership or the lack thereof and levels of poverty. In countries where people own their property, it results in greater security and prosperity and lower levels of poverty. Where people are secure in their ownership of a property it allows for the facilitation of economic transactions, more efficient and sustainable resource use, and for the evolution in credit markets.”

For over 40 years the Free Market Foundation (FMF) has championed the cause of converting the various forms of Apartheid title found in the townships to full, unambiguous ownership for the current tenants.

Mr Antonie had just had an operation and was in great pain. Temba Nolutshungu, Executive Director of the FMF, did the presentation.

The FMF’s Khaya Lam (My Home) land reform initiative delivers real economic empowerment of home ownership to township residents deprived of their dignity and rights under apartheid by facilitating the conversion of council owned rental properties into freehold title – at no cost to the recipients.

The 1913 Natives Land Act prohibited black South Africans from owning land in so-called ‘white areas’ – restricting the question of land ownership entirely to the ethnic authorities in the reserves, later known as homelands. Black people in the cities thus lived as tenants on property owned by the local municipality, which developed into what we know today as ‘townships’. Not much has changed.

The young disabled man had to leave as his “lift” needed to go back to work. Leon Louw, Executive Director of the FMF, did the honours before the presentation so that they could leave.

FMF executive director Leon Louw said, “Black land deprivation was probably the single worst element of the colonial and apartheid eras and little has changed since 1994. Between 5 million and 7 million black and coloured families still live as tenants or without ownership rights in houses they have lived in for generations. There has been no systematic conversion of these ‘council owned’ and ‘traditional community’ properties to full, unrestricted ownership”.

He continued, “We are deeply grateful to Johann Rupert for his generous sponsorship without which we cannot do this critical work on behalf of black tenants. He and fellow business leaders and individual sponsors keep Khaya Lam going.”

Titling in South Africa is a painstaking process complicated by lack of records of ownership and bureaucratic complexity. That municipalities and sponsors are willing to invest time and funds to achieve home ownership for disadvantaged communities is a testament to the goodwill and drive to right the evils of apartheid which are still evident in South African society today.

Temba Noluthsungu with Alicia Mgijima, an ex-councillor who had long advocated titling and had just received hers. She commented to Temba when asked what the title meant to her: “Life”. The young man with her was encouraged by her to apply.

The FMF’s Khaya Lam (My House) Project

The FMF’s pilot project, which began in the Free State’s Ngwathe, has seen 1,620 deeds transferred to unrestricted fully tradable title unlocking R162 million of “dead capital”. This simple act is transforming the lives of black families, many of whom have lived as tenants or with restricted ownership for generations. It gives access to previously locked dead capital and provides hundreds of very poor people their first step towards true economic freedom and economic prosperity. Many farmers in the Free State and elsewhere have committed to sponsoring title deeds as a means to reduce historical conflict between famers and workers living as tenants on their land. The FMF is creating a blue print to be replicated throughout SA.

  • The FMF is an independent, non-profit, public benefit organisation, created in 1975 by pro-free market business and civil society national bodies to work for a non-racial, free and prosperous South Africa. As a policy organisation it promotes sound economic policies and the principles of good law. As a think tank it seeks and puts forward solutions to some of the country’s most pressing problems: unemployment, poverty, growth, education, health care, electricity supply, and more. The FMF was instrumental in the post-apartheid negotiations and directly influenced the Constitutional Commission to include the property rights clause: a critical cornerstone of economic freedom.
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