Government has published a major new land policy for South Africa – here’s what you need to know

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has published a new ‘land donations policy’, allowing groups to donate property to speed up the land reform process.

Released for public comment on Friday (7 February), the document states that donations should be expedited from large institutional landowners. This includes agri-business, mining companies, financial institutions, churches and other groups.

“Specific procedures should be established to respond to offers of donations so that the department becomes responsible and expedites acquisition and transfer of the donated land,” the policy states.

“The state will also undertake an assessment of all state and public land that is suitable and available for distribution (donation) to the prioritised beneficiaries for agricultural and secondary agricultural production, residential and human settlement, commonage and industrial development.”

The policy accounts for donors who have preselected beneficiaries and land which will simply be given to the government to redistribute.

In cases where there are no identified beneficiaries, the farm dwellers, labour tenants, small families and cooperative farmers, the landless in informal settlements, women, youth, and persons with disabilities will be prioritised, the policy states.

The donation process

The state will register properties and a due diligence process will follow, the policy states.

This process will include assessments in terms of land suitability and the extent of the state’s financial, administrative and technical responsibilities for such land.

This will also involve land rights enquiries, farm/property assessments and special technical attention given to the donations concerned.

The policy outlines the different steps of the donation process as follows:

  • Donated land coming with pre-selected beneficiaries – Where land is made available for donation and comes with preselected beneficiaries, it will be prioritised for disposal. Such land will follow the due process but will not be advertised for allocation and will be tabled directly at the appropriate selection and allocation panel.
  • Where the land has no identified beneficiaries – Where the donated land has no identified beneficiaries, it will be prepared for the beneficiaries who have been prioritised by the Beneficiary Selection and Land Allocation Panel. Due diligence will also be required to check whether there is a claim to the land in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act. Where required, an added assessment will be undertaken in terms of a rating methodology and software developed, to rank strategically located land-based on natural resources, availability of infrastructure and proximity to markets.
  • Land donated primarily for agriculture or for human settlement purposes – All donated land that is agricultural and cleared, will be registered and logged into the Agricultural Land Holdings Account. Such land will be advertised for selected beneficiaries to apply. Where the donated land is for human settlements, it will be processed via the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.
  • Valuation of donated land – The valuation of the donated land will be done after the above-mentioned assessments have been conducted.
  • Transfer of donated land –  All land acquired for donation will be subjected to the normal transfer process, which will include the appointment of conveyances, the transfer of the properties, property management and land disposals to the identified beneficiaries. This will be in the form the signing of lease agreements and/or hand over of the properties in freehold form, mainly to farm workers, labour tenants, restitution claimants and other designated groups. In certain instances, a reversionary right to the state will apply to such land.

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Government has published a major new land policy for South Africa – here’s what you need to know