Mr Gugile Nkwinti, the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform of the Republic of South Africa, addressed delegates at the consultative meeting for Farmers’ Organisations (FOs) on land tenure security and agricultural transformation in the smallholder sector in southern Africa. The meeting was co-hosted by We Effect and SACAU from 22nd to 23rd May 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa (SA).
The Minister shared the various experiences of South Africa in dealing with land issues. “No political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty without land and without tangible prospects for a better life. Attacking poverty and deprivation must therefore be the first priority of a democratic government,” he quoted from the country’s National Development Plan. He stated that this was the mandate of government to which land was central. “South Africa is creating a new tenure system and trying to bring all South Africans on board, particularly women,”said Minister Nkwinti. He stated that the country is not only addressing the colonial legacy but pre-colonial legacy, particularly as there are still remnants of the feudal system that still show up now and again.
The one household one hectare concept was established and this will amongst others ensure that there is some institutional form of protection for the family, particularly women in rural areas. “The communal land tenure bill is entrenching the security of women through one household one hectare,” he said. He also mentioned that the democratic values enshrined in the constitution need to be upheld and this means title deeds need to be provided. “We don’t want people to continue living in rural areas under a feudal system when we have a constitutional democracy – the two cannot co-exist forever,” he further stated.
On the lessons learned, he first emphasised that the government wants to ensure that every piece of land is cultivated and asserted that if all South Africans who have land were using the land gainfully, “we would have a different South Africa today.” Communal property associations were created but these came with problems – trust. This involves giving land to groups of people who have never worked together, and not to individuals, thus leading to conflicts which usually result in no production and lands that are lying fallow. In other instances, people who have been given title deeds obtain loans that they eventually fail to service and the land goes back to those it was acquired from while others fight over resources provided to work the land.
People were also given land because they were unemployed thinking that they would be farmers. “These are the issues SA is addressing and we want to learn from others in Africa,” said the Minister. The Minister also highlighted that the question of sharing land equitably across race groups needs to be addressed as it undermines equity among races. On the question of how much land has been distributed, it becomes difficult to answer until such time the land audit has been finalised. The same applies to the hectares lying fallow. He also referred to the regulation of the landholding bill which does not allow foreign nationals in SA to own land but to have the right to lease it for a minimum of 30 years.