Politicians need to cool off before they get any land

2020-01-12 21:38

Politicians and state bureaucrats might not be left out of government’s plans for the redistribution of state land, and they could be eligible to receive such land after a “cooling off” period of two years or less, a new policy document reveals.

The partners of state officials will be entitled to receive land as long as their relationship to the official is declared, and provided the state “develops mechanisms” to prevent manipulation of the system and conflicts of interest, says a policy document published for comment in the Government Gazette by the rural development and land reform department on January 3.

The policy document indicates that women, disabled people and war veterans from the ANC should be the main beneficiaries of land in future.

The goal of the policy, says the department, is to “revive the class of black commercial agricultural producers destroyed by the Natives Land Act of 1913”.

This document will determine policy for all awards of land by government – for agriculture in all categories (including small farmers, subsistence farmers and large farmers) as well as for housing, industrial development and community land.

However, the policy document makes it clear that government will continue to buy agricultural land and lease it to prospective black famers without them receiving title deeds.

This policy was started in 2005 and, in 2012, it was eventually declared the only mechanism for the distribution of agricultural land.

Pierre Vercueil, the president of AgriSA, said: “I have not really seen anybody farming productively on land that they do not own.”

The policy document proposes that politicians and state officials become eligible to receive land from the state after certain “cooling off” periods.

For state officials, the period is two years; and politicians will be eligible to receive land from the state just one year after leaving office.

A national and provincial panel, comprising “representatives of all role players in the land and agriculture reform sector”, will decide who is awarded land. The policy document contains no details about how members of the panel will be appointed.

The national panel will allocate land valued at more than R50 million and the provincial panel will award land of a lesser value.

The document states that the department will ensure those who are allocated land will receive training and gain experience in using the land effectively – an area in which the department has a grim track record.

This has been confirmed by research.

As recently as last month, a comprehensive study by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (Plaas) at the University of the Western Cape pointed out that the state’s ability to help beneficiaries of land reform was one of the significant reason land reform was failing.

The research showed that more than a quarter of the farms government had redistributed produced almost nothing or failed to produce anything at all.

The Plaas research was conducted in the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and North West, and was aimed at establishing to what extent land reform had been captured by elite groups, such as politicians, state officials and wealthy businesspeople.

Almost half of the farms that had been redistributed in these provinces ended up in the hands of wealthy individuals who used them to diversify their business interests, the research showed.

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January 26 2020