The ACDP reflects with dismay and concern on a budget that instead of being increased in line with the obvious urgency of the land redistribution question, the land budget - which declined over the past few years - is now at the level it was in 2008 after the proposed 3% increase.

In speaking to the national budget for 2018/19, Minister Malusi Gigaba said: “The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform will accelerate the settling of restitution claims.

The progress of restitution of land has been very slow up until now with most rural claims not resolved, and poor implementation - and inadequate support - for resolved ones.  The limiting of restitution to dispossession after 19 June 1913 has also discriminated against KhoiSan people causing much uneasiness.

What we know is that at the end of Apartheid, about 80-million hectares of commercial farms were owned by 60,000 families, and 13-million black people were crowded into homelands or Bantustans. The new government promised people access to land on an equitable basis with legally secure tenure and the expectation was created that 30% of white owned land would be redistributed within five years.

By 2014, about 700 million hectares, amounting to 8% of white-owned agricultural land, had been redistributed. Although the Constitution allows for compensation that is “just and equitable,” government chose to redistribute land at market value on a ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ basis. Interestingly access to land on an equitable basis has not in more than 20 years been interpreted judicially.

I know personally what an uphill battle it was for me when I tried to convince an ACDP congress that supporting market value as opposed to an equitable basis as expressed in the Constitution, would increase the risk of the demand for far more drastic measures down the line.

The ACDP understands however that for socio-economic justice to be a reality, land redistribution is necessary and expropriation is inevitable. Expropriation of land without fair compensation, however, cannot be condoned.

As the Minister of Housing said yesterday, “the failure or success of our human settlements expansion programme depends on accessing and releasing optimally located land. Houses can only be built on land which is suitable and well located”.

People need rooves over their family’s heads and land is needed for this purpose.  Title deeds must, however, unconditionally be in the hands of the people of South Africa.

The ACDP calls on government to champion a pragmatic land redistribution drive guided by the principles of equity and justice. The Zimbabwean example having been shown to be socially and economically hazardous even if politically appealing in the short term is not an option.

Expropriation of land without compensation has historically destabilised economies and destroyed the hopes and dreams that freedom promises.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 39: Rural Development and Land Reform
11 May 2018

WATCH: Rural and Land Development Budget Vote 39