REFORMER: Minister Gugile Nkwinti says resolving the land issue is a key pillar of the ANC’s post-Polokwane policy.
RURAL Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti has promised to implement unprecedented reforms to land ownership rules which the government hopes will reverse apartheid’s legacy that left most wealth and property concentrated in the hands of a white minority.
But critics warn his proposals for a radical overhaul of SA’s property rights regime could harm both rich and poor by discouraging investment and replicating past mistakes that resulted in little land delivery, community conflict, declining production and job losses.
Nkwinti this week stressed that resolving the land issue, which saw black ownership rights restricted by racist laws, is a key pillar of post- Polokwane ANC policy.
“All anticolonial struggles are at the core about two things, repossession of lost land and restoring the centrality of indigenous culture,” he told the National Assembly.“Fundamental” land reforms were therefore a key catalyst in the ANC’s mission to resolve inherited “race and class contradictions”.
His department’s green paper, to be submitted to the Cabinet next month, would propose a three-tier system that allowed for limited freehold tenure for private property, the leasing of state land, and placing strict conditions on foreign ownership of land in SA.
“We fully support the minister in this,” says Aggrey Mahanjana, CEO of Nerpo, SA’s largest black stock farmer grouping. “But government must improve its systems. Our people have become worse off through land reform.” Nkwinti was at pains to stress that the government had no intention of changing the constitution to turn all productive farmland into a “national asset”, as his director-general, Thozi Gwanya, had proposed in his recent strategic plan.
But Nkwinti’s plans contain hidden provisos that risk introducing sweeping state controls over land through the back door, which critics warn would risk amplifying failures by enlarging the role of state land entities with a history of mismanagement and inefficiency.
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