The composition of the panel was problematic in that it included people from different backgrounds. It was not going to be easy for the panel to reach consensus on all of the issues. It looks as if the civil society was not adequately represented. A number of panellists were from the banks and agricultural sector. Be that as it may, the idea for setting up the Presidential Panel to advise him on land related issues was excellent. It is true that: “Land ownership is a controversial and emotive issue in South Africa where racial inequality persists more than two decades after the end of apartheid, during which millions of the black majority were dispossessed of their land by the white minority.” The President knows he has to tread carefully on this issue of land. This is an emotional issue and if it is not addressed in a proper manner it has a potential of causing an enormous problems. The Presidential Panel was given this mammoth task to look into solutions that will be acceptable to a large population of South Africa.
On the one hand, land owners feel that as owners of land they have a right to enjoy undisturbed use and ownership of their land. On the other hand, labour tenants feel that as occupiers of land they have a right of security of tenure including the right to acquire land that they currently occupy. Furthermore, a “person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices” feels that it “is entitled to restitution of that property or equitable redress”.
The issue of “drafting a bill to make changes to Section 25 of the constitution which sets out criteria for land reform and land rights” is problematic in that it will not solve the land problem in South Africa. Its main purpose is to introduce the issue of the expropriation of land without compensation. The current constitutional framework allows the expropriation of land with zero compensation. The problem is that there is no political will on the side of the state to expropriate land. The democratically elected government in South Africa has never expropriated land despite that the current legal framework in South Africa allows it. The recent change of heart is welcomed as an important step in the process of finally addressing the issues of land reform. However, changing section 25 of the constitution will never be a solution. The President needs to devise a clear plan for dealing with land related issues. The sufficient financial and human resources need to be allocated. In the spirit of preventing a conflict AgriSA should be allowed to submit “an alternative report setting out perspectives on land reform based on proven agricultural practice and sustainable economic growth”.
SOURCE ARTICLE: Reuters Africa
LRC Guest Contributor – Thabiso Mbhense
Thabiso Mbhense is an Attorney currently employed by Legal Resources Centre. He holds Baccalaureus Iuris (B Iuris) Degree and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from University of KwaZulu Natal. He was employed as a candidate attorney by University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Law Clinic in 2003. When he was employed as a candidate attorney he was specialising in cases involving land reform, eviction in rural areas, domestic violence, child maintenance, divorce, labour, family matters, curator bonis and curator ad litem applications.
He was admitted as an attorney in 2005. He is currently specialising in cases involving rural and urban evictions, land reform, housing, provision of basic services, upgrading of informal settlements, acquisition of land and land claims.
He has appeared in the Magistrates’ Court, High Court, Land Claims Court, CCMA and Supreme Court of Appeal.