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Advisory panel report no 'blueprint for progress’

Publish date: 14 August 2019
Issue Number: 4760
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Category: Land reform

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture was given ‘an over-ambitious brief and far too little time and resources to do justice to its mandate. The outcome is bristling with interesting suggestions, but is also a patchy, sometimes contradictory document which is far from a blueprint for progress’, say the University of Oxford’s Professor William Beinart and Wits University’s Professor Peter Delius. They argue that a central weakness in the panel’s report is its failure to locate its recommendations within the current fiscal crisis,’ which will place severe limits on state expenditure in the foreseeable future’. In an analysis on the Daily Maverick site, the authors point out that while the panel made recommendations that they strongly support, they believe the report under-estimates the significance of commercial agriculture, which affects its understanding of land and agriculture in SA. ‘Despite the ending of subsidies and the uncertainty of government policy about land reform, commercial agriculture – no longer only white – has flourished and generally been highly innovative in the post-apartheid era.’ However, they add that more could have been made of the promise shown by some of the public-private partnerships that have developed in SA. Beinart and Delius believe further that family rights and individual rights must be buttressed so they are not vulnerable to the demands of rent-seeking intermediaries such as chiefs or shack landlords. ‘The report strongly advocates a Land Register Act as a means of cementing land rights and facilitating land administration. This will have certain advantages for those, roughly 60% of landholders, whose land is currently unregistered. The cadastral survey will gradually be extended over the whole of SA and landholding registered. We are in support of this process as a long-term aim.’ The authors note that while the report offers ‘ambitious’ plans for new laws and new administrative bodies, it glosses over the track record of ‘immense delays, difficulties and rocketing expenses involved in new initiatives and institutions’. They suggest the major strategy should be to enhance funding, training, capacity and motivation for the key institutions dealing with the land issue. ‘For example, strengthening the Deeds Registry and the Surveyor-General’s Office is critical to the future of landholding, administration and land markets. A beefed-up Land Commission is essential for finalising restitution.’ The authors suggest that their approach would be to include ‘massive and more innovative urban provision; leveraging and facilitating private sector skills and capital; supporting beneficiaries of the 8.5m hectares transferred so far, as well as smallholders in the former homelands; strengthening land rights of all landholders; and improving capacity and performance of existing institutions.’

Full analysis on the Daily Maverick site

Final report by the presidential advisory panel on land reform