South Africa still grapples with the issue of land ownership. It is a highly emotive subject in the country and deeply rooted in our history. Many believe that it is central to how the country can move forward in addressing the injustices perpetuated in the past.
In 2016, a study conducted over nine years by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) showed that 79% of land is privately owned, while the state owns about 17 million hectares of land in the country. South Africa remains hugely unequal, with black South Africans still dispossessed of land and many still homeless.
For South Africans, land is a symbol of far more than an expanse of soil. For most people, it has nothing to do with agriculture at all.
Historically, the demand by black freedom movements for the return of the land meant the return of the country to its people. It was directed not only at ownership of farms but also at minority control of the economy and society.
These are but some of the many concerns that necessitated a land debate in Mpumalanga where the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and RuralMinister Didiza further indicated that the department also needs to be sensitive to other issues such as “what happens to a person who bought land in the open market and has not benefitted or inherited a piece of land?” She therefore emphasised that in as much as the land issue may be explosive and emotive, we need to deal with the issues rationally without attaching emotions to it.
Attendees raised several concerns, with one farmer wanting to know what land the department will be target for expropriation and when a document will be produced to outline the process. In her response, the minister indicated that a legal framework has not been finalised. She, however, mentioned that land that is lying could be considered and indicated that such as land ceiling should also be considered.
Another participant wanted to know whether the ‘willing buyer, – willing seller’ will still be used if Section 25 is reviewed. The minister indicated that expropriation without compensation was one of the tools that would be considered. She indicated that it should not forget that there are some landowners who are willing to donate their land.
The minister also noted the issue of women access to land as part of the issues that the report of the Advisory Panel Report on Land Reform and Agriculture highlighted. She sighted that the report has noted that, although women in SA’s rural societies are responsible for most of the agricultural food production and household labour, the patriarchal nature of African society precludes them from owning land and putting it up as collateral to secure funding for expanding their farming operations or for debt management. While it is true that in its purest form, the decision-making unit in Development, Ms Thoko Didiza addressed a crowd of students and land reform stakeholders on 16 of August 2019 at the University of Mpumalanga, Mbombela Campus.
Land reform remains one of the key issues for the institution given their history as a former College of Agriculture. In addition, the province on its own is agricultural dominant with more than 68% of the land is used for agriculture. A large proportion of SA’s citrus, grain, subtropical and deciduous fruits come from Mpumalanga.
The province is an exporter of macadamia nuts, a sector that is growing at a remarkable fast pace. Companies such as McCain, Nestlé and PepsiCo use the province’s rich agricultural produce, and there are pulp and paper plants (Sappi and Mondi), fertiliser facilities and textile manufacturing concerns. Addressing a conference hall packed, the Minister began her address as she indicated that the 1913 Natives Land Act hit the nail in the codification of dispossession into law. “This act led to large masses of people becoming pariahs in the land of their forefathers, as indicated by Sol Plaatjie in his book”, said the minister. any society is the family, where women are included in the process, the fact is that in rural communities, women are often overlooked when it comes to issues regarding land ownership, although they are the ones that work it. Rules of access and inheritance in rural societies favour men over women and women with children over those without.
As she drew towards conclusion, the minister said that spatial integration and economic livelihood should be investigated. She said that there remains unequal land ownership in this our country, which cannot be overlooked, and the onus is upon the current generation to deal with the current issues.
She furthermore indicated that the state has heeded the call to release the land that it owns for agriculture and land development, the process which Deputy President David Mabuza is busy with.
There have been several discussions, including the 2005 Land Summit, which were held to discuss the land issue. Some of the Summit’s resolutions are now being revisited, such as the land expropriation and land tax. These are some of the proposals that were made and are part of the report.
The slow pace of land reform continues to be a thorn in the flesh, with some of the political organisations such as the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) and the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) calling for land expropriation without compensation. It is such discussions that have led to the discussions on whether the Constitution (Section 25), needed to be amended or not, which were followed by the nationwide consultations which took place in the previous year.