Constitutional amendments should be made to address the issue of land restitution without compensation, said Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti.
The minister made the announcement in the National Assembly on Tuesday during the debate on President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address.
Nkwinti’s statement followed the ANC’s renewed focus on land reform this year, and formed part of the ANC’s goal to achieve radical socioeconomic transformation in land reform, Nkwinti said:
“A pre-colonial audit of land ownership, use and occupation patterns must be done.
“Once the audit has been completed, a single law should be developed to address the issue of land restitution without compensation. The necessary constitutional amendments should be undertaken to effect this process,” said Nkwinti.
The Economic Freedom Fighters, which lobbies for land reform without compensation, has since 2014 offered the ANC its 6% of the seats in Parliament so that the Constitution can be amended to achieve this goal.
A two-thirds majority is needed to unilaterally amend the Constitution, and the ANC currently has 62% of the seats.
Nkwinti also said the National Land Claims Commission must be re-designed and established as a Chapter 9 institution.
From 1994, 4 850 100 hectares have been acquired through the land redistribution programme, and 1743 farms have benefited from the Recapitalisation and Development Programme from 2009 to date. In respect of the restitution programme,
3 389 727 hectares were restored, 1994 to the end of January 2017. Financial compensation amounting to R11.6 billion was paid out to land claimants who opted for this alternative for the same period.
Had these claimants opted for land to be restored, another 2 772 457 hectares would have been restored.
In Zuma’s state of the nation address last Thursday, he urged beneficiaries of land restitution to not accept financial compensation instead of land.
“More than 90% of claims are currently settled through financial compensation which does not help the process at all. It perpetuates dispossession. It also undermines economic empowerment,” he said.
Zuma said “it will be difficult if not impossible, to achieve true reconciliation until the land question is resolved”.
Nkwinti said on Tuesday that the biggest challenge regarding the land reform programme had to do with “coherent institutional transformation”, rather than one that is perceived as a single-departmental programme.
The notion that land reform was only the mandate of his department, was an oversimplification of the complex issue because land is registered in several ways, he said.