Land reform recommendations ‘require further engagement’

The cabinet has turned its back on various recommendations of a presidential advisory panel on land reform, including that a body similar to that of the public protector be set up to manage conflict between citizens and the state.

Thoko Didiza being sworn in as minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

In a press briefing in Pretoria on Thursday, agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza said while almost all the panel’s recommendations were accepted, some required further engagement. One measure the cabinet does not support is the establishment of a “national land rights protector” to manage “higher-level” conflict between citizens and the state.

The government believes this function is covered in the mandate of the Land Courts Bill, which the panel recommended be established.

The panel, chaired by Vuyo Mahlati, submitted its report to the government in July. It was mandated to give an independent appraisal of the government’s land reform process, with particular consideration to parliament’s constitutional review process, to more explicitly allow for land expropriation without compensation.

“On the agreed recommendations the relevant departments would develop action plans to ensure implementation is undertaken,” Didiza said. “There were some recommendations that were not accepted, not because the issues raised were not important, but such recommendations required further engagements, which are of a policy nature.”

The government also does not support the panel’s view that land reform must be informed by an agreed vision for agrarian reform. Instead, it believes the white paper on land policy is adequate to address unequal land ownership patterns in the country.

While the government supports the recommendation that measures be established to “unlock” urban state land for affordable housing, it believes there are challenges in doing so.

The panel also recommended the establishment of a land and agrarian reform agency.

“The view of government is that the new configuration of the department, which now combined the department of agriculture and land reform, will address the concerns,” Didiza said.

Source: TMG Digital

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