The land question is a very serious matter that if not handled and managed properly can result in serious repercussions – compromised food security and, worse, a civil war.
The big question is who needs land and what is that land needed for. Ownership of land is critical in dealing with how land is managed and controlled.
My view is that all land could be owned by government except for residential and business land (this is to ensures property rights to all) and therefore I would categorise land into three types: residential, business and farming land.
Residential land should be readily available for residents to build their own houses and acquisition thereof should be the easiest of them all. Ownership should be entrenched in the individual owner.
Here municipalities and traditional authorities should be empowered to manage the acquisition and registration of title deeds.
Prices should be controlled so that residents are not exploited while at the same time ensuring that the system is not abused or exploited by the rich and powerful.
The same should apply to business land but here land should be categorised into two types: industrial parks and standalone industrial sites; CBD sites and business malls.
Municipalities would identify suitable areas for the establishment of such types of businesses; develop industrials parks (facilitate building of facilities and required infrastructure) to facilitate ease of access.
Sites in CBDs should be available to all but the acquisition of such sites should be strictly managed to enable all requiring such sites to acquire them.
Ownership of industrial parks should remain the domain of the municipalities or whoever such rights are ceded to, for example state-owned entities should be empowered to do this.
Farming land is a different category of land and the government should take ownership of the land. For small subscription farming, communal land should be available and here government should provide support in the form of implements and training to enable the farmers to optimally use the available land.
Commercial farmers should be given long-term leases but my view is that this must be done in such a way that this will enable the land user to acquire credit with banks to develop the land for its purpose.
If this is not possible it is going to require government to develop the land and provide implements to work the land which in my view is not feasible more especially for commercial farming.
Portions of land not currently in use or lying fallow should be identified and where necessary expropriated and developed for farming purposes through distributed to those who are in need.
Such land can be packaged for small up-and-coming farmers for use with the necessary support (extension services for training and implements).
The management of land should be a national competence even where this role is devolved to lower spheres of government – provincial, municipal or tribal authority.
All title deeds and long-term leases should be registered with the national government so that one national registry is kept for all land and its usage.
On the question of compensation care must be taken to ensure that all improvements made on the land such as houses, irrigation systems, fencing and implements are quantified and paid to the title holder.
Any outstanding debt attached to the expropriated property must be settled so that the title holder is not indebted to banks on property they no longer own.
• Silas Lebese is a City Press reader from Giyani