Pace of Land Reform: hearings

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
20 October 2004


PACE OF LAND REFORM: HEARINGS

This report was produced by kind courtesy of Contact Trust: www.contacttrust.org.za.

Chairperson:
Mr N Masithela (ANC)

Documents handed out:
 

Institute for Global Dialogue submission
AGRI SA submission
National African Farmer's Union presentation
South African Communist Party submission
Centre for Applied Legal Studies submission
Deciduous Fruit Producer's Trust submission
Sandford Land Owners Association submission
Lydenburg Farmers Association submission
Badfontein Landowners Association submission
Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) submission
Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA) submission
Women's Legal Centre submission
Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) submission

SUMMARY
The Committee hosted public hearings on the pace of land reform in the country. Members heard submissions with widely varying opinions, from the Institute for Global Dialogue, AGRI SA, National African Farmer's Union, SA Communist Party, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Deciduous Fruit Producer's Trust, Association for Rural Advancement, Sandford Land Owners Association, and the Lydenburg Farmers Association.

MINUTES
The Chair said the Committee would only deliberate after they had heard all the submissions, and then make recommendations to Parliament. The Committee should not time interject their own opinions during the hearing process.

Institute for Global Dialogue briefing
Dr N Samasuwo, Director, addressed such issues as market mechanisms; critical lessons to be learned from the Zimbabwean and Namibian experiences; foreign land ownership in South Africa, and challenges to the Land Reform Policy. He then suggested that some government land could be used, beyond the buying of new land. For instance, there had been instances in which the Government has not realised that certain land patents had expired. He thought the media was propagating misperceptions about the Land Reform Policy, and the public should realise that land reform was currently not working.

Discussion
A Member asked what the Government should do if no land could be found. Dr Samasuwo said that the Government could control land prices through legislation, and put pressure on farmers who were sitting on claims that had expired.

A Member asked about alternatives to the market-based economy, and how to solve the 'gentrification' problem.

Dr Samasuwo said that the market mechanism could stay, but that these needed to be balanced with state control through appropriate regulation. In terms of the gentrification process, no foreigner should be allowed to purchase land as this was driving up prices and inhibiting South Africans from buying land.

AGRI SA briefing
Mr Laurie Bosman, President of AGRI SA, outlined the problems of small-scale farms and their commercial viability. He also spoke of the challenges of overlapping claims that caused the process to slow down.

Discussion
A Member asked if the time had come for organisations like AGRI SA to assist on a district level, to identify land needs in each area. He also asked whether Mr Bosman would agree with the Institute for Global dialogue speaker that government should be given first right of purchase on every land sale. Lastly, he asked what a 'Deeds Registry' would cover.

Mr Bosman responded that AGRI SA had programmes to assist and sustain agricultural production. They were not in favour of introducing such a government 'first right of refusal' because this would constitute tampering with the marker mechanism, and then it would no longer be an open market. The Deeds Registry would be a database of land that would cover what land had been transferred, the availability of land, and skilled expertise available.

The Chair intervened and asked whether the database would include race allocation.

Mr Bosman argued that it should not because that would be similar to the apartheid system, in which all land records were accounted for by race.

The Chair then asked how it would be possible to know whether the land was being distributed fairly, without keeping track of race.

Mr Bosman said that it would be impossible to keep track of race because so much land was in the name of businesses anyway.

A Member asked why the land reform policy had been so delayed. She pointed to the lack of staff, skills and enabling tools.

Mr Bosman said the entire administrative capacity was a contributing factor to the slow process. The exclusion of current land-owners also inhibited the process, and that all parties involved needed to work together to make the process faster.

A Member asked about the efforts of farmers and AGRI SA in speeding up the process. Mr Bosman said that AGRI SA had many other affiliations, and one of these redistribution programmes addressing the land issue in the sugar, grain and cotton industries.

A Member asked who was responsible for checking that landowners were treating workers according to set labour standards.

Mr Bosman said they appointed evaluators to do check this with a set methodology. If the landowner found any discrepancy with the results, s/he could appoint his/her own evaluator to perform a cross-check.

National African Farmer's Union briefing
Mr M Matlala, NAFU President, addressed the Committee on an array of concerns, including the slow pace of the land reform policy; the training required for new land-owners; and the terms and conditions put on them.

Discussion
A Member asked Mr Matlala to explain what he meant when he said there was a 'silent sophisticated political agenda' at work. He also asked if black farmers where discriminated against. Lastly, he asked where he thought financial support would come from to speed up the process.

Mr Matlala said that the land reform process what a painful exercise and that some farmers were unwilling to work to solve the problems. There were three types of land-owners: those that supported the transformation; those that pretended to be open to change; and those that did not have a choice. He felt that black people were not openly discriminated against, but discrimination was now more subtle and sophisticated. He acknowledged that the government had limited resources that made the process and solutions harder.

A Member asked about ongoing dependence of emerging farmers from established commercial farmers. Mr Matlala said that training processes were repeatedly mentioned, but never seemed to start.

A Member asked about consultative processes, and how they would define expropriation in the context of an open market.

Mr Matlala said that poor people should be taken on board during the process of deciding and finalising land issues. Their access to finance should also be taken into account. The government should start using expropriation to ensure that unnecessary delays were not experienced, particularly from the unco-operative farmers.

South African Communist Party briefing
After the lunch break, Mr M Jara from the SACP Head Office, argued that the state was not adequately proactive with regards to land acquisition. Few municipalities had included land reform in their plans and budgets. The SACP stressed that the state needed to better keep the interests of the workers and the poor in mind.

Discussion
With reference to the SACP's call for a 'Land Summit', a Member asked how such an event would be different to the land hearings: What other issues should be discussed at such a Summit.

Mr Jara said that the SACP had been calling for many things. To date, there had been no concerted effort by government to confront white landowners.

A Member asked how the SACP proposed that government achieve the transfer of land from white to black people. Mr Jara stated that government should acquire land by more aggressively using the expropriation option.

A Member asked if Mr Jara proposed an amendment or a repeal of the law. Government had a programme that it seemed the SACP wanted to change.

Mr Jara said that the SACP was not calling for an amendment to the Constitution (but they might call for amendments in future). The property clause is not just about property, but also about land rights.

Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Witwatersrand University, briefing
Adv Maria Ria Nonyana, Policy Researcher for Land Rights Research Programme at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, explained that they worked with the Department towards security of tenure for communities. She believed that the future success of land reform remained uncertain.

A Member asked about problems with enforcing entitlements, and the rights-based approach to land reform. What did Professor Albertyn suggest the Committee do to move away from court-driven matters? The MP asked for her view on what the Committee should do on ESTA, and about secure tenure for farm dwellers.

Professor Albertyn said that the Department Affairs should involve more stakeholders to ensure people are give land in a sustainable way. The problem with enforcing rights in courts was that magistrates were not applying the laws properly. In some cases, this could be ascribed to conflict of interests - for instance, where the defendant farmer was the magistrate's friend. A further reason was many magistrates' lack of training and education in dealing with land disputes. CALS was not arguing that the laws where unenforceable through the courts. However, they believed that magistrates needed to be trained. Also, all law enforcement agents needed to be trained to deal with unfair evictions, ESTA and tenure. The problem wasn't with the legislation currently in place, but with implementation.

A Member asked how much CALS charged communities for their services. Professor Albertyn said that their services were free as they were part of a Human Rights Non-Government Organisation.

A Member reported the Department was in the process of collaborating with magistrates, 600 lawyers and other law enforcement agencies. The new training curriculum had been designed by Dr Roux, and the Department had provided the funding for this training initiative.

Deciduous Fruit Producer's Trust briefing
Mr Denver Williams, General Manager, spoke about the lack of finances and information. He argued that more money was needed for industry bodies that could then report to provincial offices.

Discussion
A Member asked they would know that the money provided to industries to buy land, wouldn't fall into corrupt hands. Mr Williams said that the industry body would take full responsibility for the land. The government-funded industries would be accountable to Parliament. The system in the provinces wasn't working well, so the Trust was 'thinking outside the box'.

A Member asked if the Trust has a model or mechanism to incorporate these industries. Mr Williams said that this would have to be a partnership between government and industries. The industries had expertise and technical skills to make models. He suggested that the industry run feasibility studies to ensure that everything was in place before a deal was made.

A Member asked how their recommendation took the poorest of the poor into account, the main target for land reform. Mr Williams responded that the industry would walk with the poor for the next ten to fifteen years, and this would include business skills and training.

The Chairperson summarised that the process should be transparent on who owned the land. Government would transfer money to the private sector.

Association for Rural Advancement briefing
Mr Sihle Mkhize, AFRA Director, made his presentation based on the written AFRA submission (attached).

Discussion
A Member said that that AFRA had made a contradiction by saying the deadline was not correct. They asked about AFRA's proposal for a realistic deadline for restitution. Mr Mkhize responded that their support of the 2005 deadline was conditional on a proper investigation.

A Member asked what mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that traditional grazing areas were maintained. If the state did not pay out compensation, and instead give out land, why would black farmers not simply sell the land for money?

Mkhize argued that the reason people would sell the land, was because of their economic situation. People needed money, but they also needed land.

The Chairperson said that it, in its arguments, AFRA had sounded as if they support land reform policy, but their conclusion contradicted this.

Sandford Land Owners Association briefing
Mr Ben Cilliers, a representative from the Sandford Land Owners Association, argued that state bureaucracy makes the process of land reform a very slow one.

A Member asked if Mr Cillier believed that white farmers wanted to co-operate with the land reform process by giving up their land. Did this frustration with the bureaucratic method discourage those who wanted participate, or made them unco-operative?

Mr Cilliers responded that land ownership was the basis of existence for a farmer, so initially, farmers were very reluctant to sell land. However, when the farmers in his area had got together to discuss the situation of the landless, 90% of the farm-owners had decided to offer land.

A Member asked about the current status of the negotiations. The Member wanted to know if there were problems with the land valuations carried out by government and the private sector. Was this the biggest stumbling block?

Mr Cilliers reported that the status of the negotiations had remained unchanged since 6 August 2004. The valuation provided with by state had been out of line with three previous valuations carried out by private land valuators.

A Member reported that they were aware of the problems of land valuations. To this end, they had commissioned a review of the valuation process that would commence on 25 October 2004.

Lydenburg Farmers Association briefing
Mr Gerrie van der Merwe, a representative from the Association, stated that agriculture formed a huge part of the country's Gross Domestic Product, was currently in a fragile state, and had already been significantly damaged.

Discussion
A Member asked what Mr Van der Merwe wanted the Committee to do about the criteria for valuations. Mr Van der Merwe said that the claims were lodged prior to the closing in 1998.

A Member asked Mr Van der Merwe to elaborate on what the Committee should do about the agricultural worker sector of communities. With the 'willing buyer/willing seller' approach, what should be done when resources were only available to certain groups?

Mr Van der Merwe replied that they were just interested in the survival of the country, and in agriculture in particular. The land reform process was important, but it was taking too long.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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