Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza wants a “meaningful conversation” with land owners on land reform.
Didiza started her budget vote speech on Tuesday by saying that the debate in South Africa continues 25 years after 1994’s first democratic election.
“Many commentators have written on the successes and challenges of land reform in South Africa. In this very legislative Assembly we too as public representatives of our people would like to find a lasting solution to the legacy of dispossession in our country,” she said.
“For many of us, this matter not only relates to sovereignty, equitable access to land as a natural resource, but more so to address socio-economic challenges that our country face.”
South Africa continues to face the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality, which has a feminine face, she said.
“Our collective responsibility is how we continue to address these challenges in order to create a better life for all. We need to create shared value in tackling these socio-economic challenges, and in building an inclusive, thriving and globally competitive agricultural sector.”
“Addressing the land question and its productive use, will need a meaningful conversation with landowners, be they farmers, companies or trust. We need to be genuine and deliberate in transforming this sector.”
She said historically, black South Africans were excluded from meaningful participation in the agricultural economy.
“The food value chain remains highly concentrated amongst a few players. This is hardly the basis of building a sustained agriculture economy that serves all. We need to work together to open up the sector, create opportunities for the historically disadvantaged groups, and make a concerted effort in growing the sector on an inclusive basis.”
She added that her department also has the responsibility to revitalise land that was given through restitution of land rights, as well as support farmers settled in agricultural state land and those in communal areas who have acquitted themselves as farmers.
Didiza further said there are “legacy issues” to be dealt with regarding restitution and tenure security of farm workers and farm dwellers.
“The legacy issues I’m referring to are many. Among these is the community of District Six. We wish to thank the community of District Six represented by their respective committees for allowing us to meet with them albeit the fact that there are legal issues between us,” she said.
“We have committed to work together to find solutions to the current stalemate. We also call for the other stakeholders such as the provincial government and the City of Cape Town, to remain true to commitments that were made in the early 2000s when such a matter for development was resolved.”
Her deputy, Mcebisi Skwatsha, said they have the opportunity to restore the dignity of dispossessed, landless people.
“Without being alarmist, we have arrived at the moment of reckoning. We have an obligation but to address the land question decisively,” he said.
“The legislative wheels of the vehicle are in motion to change Section 25 of the Constitution. Those who always beat the drums of doom will be disappointed that the sky will not fall in when the legislation is finally changed,” he said.
“The expropriation of land without compensation will soon be a reality.”
He stressed that “land grabs” would not be part of this process.
“Land occupation!” an EFF MP yelled.
Opposition MPs agreed that the restitution process should be concluded urgently and that land reform was a priority. However, they disagree on how this should be achieved.
The DA, FF Plus and ACDP expressed their opposition to expropriation without compensation, the EFF called on all land to be nationalised, while the NFP seemed to agree with the ANC that the Constitution should be amended to “make explicit [that] which is implicit”.