October 20, 2004

R13bn missing for land reform

Land Affairs and Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza has conceded that government would not be able to raise the R13bn needed to complete its programme of land restitution by 2006 as expected. The main aim of the land reform, which includes restitution and redistribution, is to ensure that 30% of farmland is in black hands by 2014, but only 3% of that land has been transferred to black owners so far. Realising that the current budget would not enable the land claims commission to meet the target, government was hence exploring other "creative" forms of raising the funds for the restitution programme, including obtaining external funding from international donor organisations and negotiating joint partnerships between claimants and owners of disputed farms.
Didiza acknowledged that the cost was a huge stumbling block in achieving the target, and said Finance Minister Trevor Manuel was likely to raise the issue in the medium-term budget policy outlook. According to her, 56.400 of the 79.000 land claims had been finalised. Government had allocated an estimated R404,6bn for the 2005-06 financial year. The 56.400 claims had already cost the department about R1bn. The problem, she furthermore explained, was that the remaining number of claims, although much smaller, was more costly and problematic because most were claims made in areas where there had been a lot of investment. "With the remaining claims the problem is that as government we have to pay for the land and the improvements made." (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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