🔒 How world sees SA: A watered down land debate

If the opponents to land expropriation were hoping that the presidential panel on land reform was going to slap down any form of expropriation,  this has certainly not happened. It has recommended that the expropriation bill should be passed speedily to replace the apartheid-era 1975 Expropriation Act. But the panel’s main focus is not on land expropriation as the only tool to address injustices of the past; what the report recommends, is a broad plan to deal with land reform. The recommendations include looking at state-owned land, unused private land and the drafting of an urban land policy. The panel has also not focused exclusively on land owned by whites; they want the Ingonyama Trust, which holds 2,883m hectares of land in KwaZulu-Natal on behalf of the Zulu King to be reviewed. If implemented, it is a decision that could set the ANC leadership on a collision course. The issue of land expropriation is worrying for investors. In May this year President Cyril Ramaphosa told a Goldman Sachs investor conference that investors need not fear that their land may be taken away as it would not be a sensible move. There seems to be a weary acceptance by the international business community that some form of land expropriation is going to happen in South Africa and they are looking for assurances from Ramaphosa that illegal land grabs and settlements will not be allowed and that investment will not be affected. In an article in the Financial Times, Joseph Cotterill writes that it appears that the panel advising Ramaphosa appears to have cooled on allowing expropriation without payment. – Linda van Tilburg

By Thulasizwe Sithole

Cyril Ramaphosa has been urged by the panel looking into land expropriation without compensation to set strict limits on its plan to seize land without compensation. The Financial Times reports that in its report released over the weekend “the panel offered only lukewarm endorsement for the expropriation policy.” This is despite the fact that the African National Congress, egged on by the Economic Freedom Fighters wants the policy to be enshrined in law.

The FT says the ANC efforts to seek a two-thirds majority to alter the country’s constitution which will allow the seizure of land without paying compensation “has unnerved foreign investors”. The ANC decided on the policy as the only way to address years of inequality due to apartheid policies.

Ramaphosa has repeatedly said that he would not allow land grabs in the country, but the panel wants him to commit to limit the use of land seizures to “land that had been abandoned or that was held for purely speculative purposes.” The recommendations of the panel were not unanimous, which is a reflection of the fierce debate in the country on the issue of land expropriation.

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Under the present system the constitution only allows for just and equitable compensation for handing land to dispossessed communities. This some believe would allow for “zero payments in certain circumstances if courts deemed that just.” Researchers have looked into other issues that restricted handing land back to communities which included “abuses by traditional leaders who have influence over title to land in rural areas”, corruption and a lack of money. Expropriation without compensation is one of the conundrum’s that Ramaphosa will have to address as there is strong support for it within the ANC. He will also have to deal with the Zulu King as the “panel pressed him to reform the Ingonyama Trust”, which manages rural land in Kwazulu-Natal on behalf of the Zulu King. The panel says “decay has set in very deep” in the Ingonyama Trust, something which the trust has denied.

The panel has also called for an audit of land ownership and wants government to look at unused state land saying that information of who owns what land in South Africa is incomplete 25 years into democratic rule. The panel’s report into land reform has been described as high-risk by the Democratic Alliance which “at best promise low reward for those in need of meaningful land reform.” The DA says the panel’s endorsement of land expropriation without compensation will have further dire consequences for South Africa’s troubled economy.



Land panel report highlights rifts that divide South Africa

By Antony Sguazzin

(Bloomberg) – The release of a report by an advisory panel on land reform has highlighted the bitter divisions in South Africa over one of the ruling party’s signature policies.

While the panel, set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa, recommended the development of a policy to provide for compensation for land seized for redistribution to black South Africans in some circumstances, two of its members, who represent commercial farming, produced a separate report to signal their disagreement.Expropriation of land without compensation has taken on enormous political importance for Ramaphosa. The implementation of the policy accepted by the ruling African National Congress in 2017 is seen by the president’s foes within the party as a test of his resolve to push through decisions unpopular with the business community.At the same time investors worry that pushing forward with the plan to change the constitution to allow for land be seized without payment will signal a disregard for property rights. Commercial farmers say it will damage food security and the economy.Given that the advisory panel’s terms of reference only allowed recommendations on the circumstances under which to expropriate land without compensation rather than whether to do so in the first place, the proposals in the report were “the best alternative option to take,” said Wandile Sihlobo, a member of the panel and the chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa. “It’s a contribution to the debate, not a blueprint.”

Emotional issue

Emotions over land run deep in South Africa where its seizure from black citizens was a key pillar of white-minority rule and at one time put 87% of the country’s land in the hands of the white minority.

The panel recommended considering a limit on farm sizes, a tax on land that exceeds the maximum threshold for one owner and levies on underutilised land. In another dilemma for Ramaphosa, it proposed dissolving the Ingonyama Trust under which the king of South Africa’s most populous ethnic group, the Zulus, holds 2.8 million hectares (6.92 million acres) of land on behalf of his subjects. Ramaphosa has previously backed away from suggestions that the trust’s land would be affected and King Goodwill Zwelithini has warned of clashes if it should happen.

The cabinet has directed all government ministers to study the panel’s report and recommendations and respond within two months. An 11-member parliamentary committee is meanwhile evaluating how changes to the constitution should be done, and has until March 2020 to report back to the National Assembly.

AgriSA, the country’s largest farmers grouping, said the report’s recommendations could compromise food security and that they will challenge the proposals that land can be taken without compensation in court if it’s accepted.

‘Change direction’

“This will be an infringement on free-market principles,” Executive Director Omri van Zyl said by phone. “We are in desperate need of economic growth and the last thing that is needed is to scare away scarce institutional lenders and investors through threatening property rights, particularly in a sector as important to the economy as this one.”

AgriSA President Dan Kriek and Nick Serfontein, who were members of the panel, compiled an alternative report after “it became clear that there were fundamental differences in opinion and approach to land reform within the panel,” AgriSA said in a statement.

“Our conclusion is that South Africa should change direction in terms of the implementation of land reform,” Serfontein and Kriek said in their report. They suggested the creation of a land reform fund.

The Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s main opposition party, described the proposals as “untenable” and said they should be rejected.

“The majority endorsement of land expropriation will further batter our ailing economy,” the party said in a statement, adding it was working on an alternative plan.

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