27. March 2018

Dialogue on land reform policy overshadowed by land occupation in the Western Cape

A two-day dialogue on land expropriation prompted by the ANC’s December resolution to expropriate land without compensation, has started yesterday. During a press conference in the beginning, Minister of Mineral resources Gwede Mantashe commented on the actual clashes in the Overberg town of Hermanus over land saying they were “anarchy” and that the law must take its course.

The Hermanus community has been embroiled in a violent outbreak since last week when a group of people tried to occupy a piece of land.

“What is happening in Hermanus is anarchy, simple. Anarchy must not be allowed to flourish because if it is allowed to flourish then we will not have control of any other incident. You can’t occupy a prime development of land and call it expropriation without compensation. It is anarchy and it must be dealt with,” said Mantashe.

The by-invitation-only forum at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg is being attended by new Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, delegates from the agricultural sector, government officials, the banking sector and academics.

Nkoana-Mashabane also denounced unlawful land occupations saying there was “enough land”. “Let’s not have land grabs, because we have enough land. But can we be as methodological as we were because we have enough, enough arable land for all our people”.

While giving her keynote address Nkoana-Mashabane was adamant that she would focus on fast tracking the process of redistributing land to dispossessed South Africans saying the current legal framework already allowed for expropriation without compensation.

Nkoana-Mashabane emphasised that it was even more pertinent to “correct the original sin of making blacks feel like secondary citizens in the country” now, in 2018, as the ANC celebrates the former President Nelson Mandela’s and Albertina Sisulu’s centenary year.

“We owe it to our grandchildren to help them walk straight. This business as usual cannot continue to be … I really want to join the team that talks to doing. The talking I have seen it, all over the world.”

However, when asked by how much money her department had spent on land reform to date, she responded that more than R50-billion had been spent of which the majority benefited white South Africans.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, author of "The Land is Ours", said the issue sporadic of land occupations and violence would continue until government addresses the structural problems of a lack of access to land.

“The real question is why are people being driven to occupy land? Ordinary South Africans are law abiding they are not criminals. It’s quite clear that the reasons they are being driven to these desperate measures is because of the abject shortage of land”.

The dialogue continues with topics for discussion including improving food security and increasing investment and the models and means by which land issues will be addressed. (Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)

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