President promises to make land reform a priority
Land reform is government’s top priority this year. This is what Jacob Zuma told party supporters during the ANC’s 103 year birthday celebrations held at Cape Town Stadium last weekend.
“We commit that the land will be returned to our people and the ANC calls on its government to act with necessary speed to put up the legislation in place this year,” he said.
“Our constitution is very clear on this matter and states that property may be expropriated only in terms of the law of general application for a public purpose,” the president said.
Land reform since 1994
The programme of land restitution was launched in 1994, mainly as a plan to redress land dispossession. The initial deadline for settlement of claims was 1998, but 20 years down the line, there are thousands of claims which have not been attended to. According to the the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, which made a presentation to parliament in November last year, there has been slow progress. As of 2014 which was the second deadline year there were 8,446 outstanding claims, lodged and waiting to be processed. There are only 1,256 claims in the final stage of the process, waiting for negotiations and final settlement.
The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act has reopened land claims and set another five-year deadline to 2019.
The president blamed the current “willing buyer, willing seller” policy, stating: “We reiterate that the usage of the willing buyer seller policy has had unsatisfactory results “. The government may be willing to buy land, but not all owners are willing to sell. Another issue is that those interested want to sell their land at market value thus making it expensive for the government to buy the land. Section 25 of the constitution explains that the expropriation method that the president highlights means that the state can take land without the owner’s consent, and in those cases the landowner will be compensated for their land.
Whether the public will welcome the expropriation method (which some fear resembles Zimbabwe’s) remains to be seen. President Zuma now has the responsibility of walking the talk and proving that the party takes land reform seriously and he was not just playing to the crowd during the ANC’s birthday celebration.
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