A look at South Africa’s planned land allocation system – and who does not qualify

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has published a new national policy focusing on land allocation in South Africa.

Gazetted on 3 January, the policy notes that despite various land reform policy efforts initiated in the post-1994 period, more than two decades later the inequity of land ownership has been left relatively intact.

“A notable number of black South Africans continue to be landless, are excluded from participating in sustainable agriculture, and live in unsustainable human settlements without sufficient livelihood resources,” it states.

To help address these issues, the policy sets out a number of principles which aim to redistribute land more equitably.

These principles include:

  • Equitable access to land: Government will strive to promote conditions which enable all the previously disadvantaged citizens and targeted groups(women, youth, people with disabilities and military veterans) to gain access to land;
  • Online Application system and National Application register: All applicants are expected to lodge applications online and walk-in applicants support shall be provided and this will ensure a credible and transparent system of an application process land allocation and beneficiary selection;
  • Land allocation and Selection panel: An independent panel shall be established to ensure a credible and transparent process land allocation and beneficiary selection;
  • Addressing diverse land needs: Government shall ensure that all land needs are addressed i.e. Agricultural production, commonage, Human settlements, industrial development and other needs);
  • Graduation of beneficiaries: Government shall promote conditions which will enable a selected beneficiary to graduate and produce at the level that matches the potential of an allocated farm;
  • Commercialization of black farmers: Government shall ensue it rekindles the class of black commercial farmers which were systematically destroyed by the 1913 Natives land Act;
  • Bias towards Poor Rural residents and Municipalities: Government shall ensure rural poor, landless, poor municipalities and peri-urban residents gain access to land for production, commonage, human settlement, and industrial development;
  • Women and Youth advancement through access to land: Government shall ensure in that land allocation reach out to women, unemployed agricultural graduates, and youth in the agricultural sector for participation in agricultural production, economic activities and associated Agro-processing value chain opportunities;
  • Needs assessment and skills audit: All applicants shall be subjected to a skills audit and assessment before being allocated the land to inform training.

Who will not qualify?

The policy states that the following people will not qualify under the proposed system:

  • Non-South African citizens including previously advantaged South African citizens;
  • Foreign nationals and illegal immigrants;
  • Employees of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development;
  • Politicians: holding public office; however, there shall be a cooling period of 12 months after leaving the public office;
  • Current beneficiaries of the land redistribution programme, where the person has been allocated a property or farm and has abandoned the property, vandalised the property, mismanaged state assets or misused funds provided by the state.
  • Farmers/individuals/legal entities currently leasing a state property unless he or she intends to hand the current property/farm back to the state.
  • State employees shall qualify provided he/she undertakes to resign from state employment upon being allocated a farm and must prior to their application  being considered, submit an affidavit which discloses their status as public servants and undertake to terminate any relationship that creates the public duty. There shall be a cooling period of 24 months for State Employees should they wish to apply for allocation of land after resignation.
  • Employees of any company, public entities or entity where Government (all three spheres) of the Republic of South Africa is a majority shareholder and employees of any company or entity that has been created by an Act of Parliament shall qualify, provided they undertake to resign from public duty upon being allocated a farm and signing of a lease agreement, if not, the State shall reverse the approval of the lease. A cooling period of two years shall apply.
  • Traditional leaders who are recognized under any legislation in the country shall qualify provided they disclose their status and remuneration by the state and have proven that they are involved in farming at various scales; the minister shall make the final determination.

Land expropriation 

While the policy does not specifically make mention of land expropriation, this should still be considered a key part of the land redistribution process.

The draft expropriation bill was published for public comment on 6 December. It aims to amend the Constitution to provide that, where land and any improvements on it are expropriated for the purposes of land reform, the amount of compensation payable may be nil.

However, the bill itself does not specify the circumstances when no compensation may be given.

Instead, it states that a separate piece of national legislation must set out the specific circumstances where a court may determine that the amount of compensation is nil.

The DA has accused the government of rushing the bill through, meaning that the public comment period has been severely curtailed by the limited period of mid-December, the festive season and then January.

“At the first meeting of the committee, the chairperson was quite adamant that the process should not be rushed and that there could even be a request for an extension.

“Since then there has been a sudden change and urgency. There is now a tremendous rush and the reply to my question in the committee regarding this, was met with a reply that can only be described as desperate, i.e. that the people of the country cannot wait any longer than 31 March,” it said.

Read: 3 new bills approved for public comment – including the controversial land expropriation bill

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A look at South Africa’s planned land allocation system – and who does not qualify