South Africa’s plan to expropriate land in order to reverse the skewed racial patterns of land ownership and accelerate the serially delayed land reform process would target property that belongs to black and white citizens.
This is the view of Deputy Public Works Minister Jeremy Cronin, who said that “no one is exempt from expropriation”.
“Black people are getting expropriated not just by the Ingonyama Trust but also by the government. We are expropriating land in the public interest to build dams or put transmission cables on land. So we cannot say black land won’t be expropriated,” said Cronin on Wednesday at the Property Sector Charter Council Meeting in Johannesburg.
The Ingonyama Trust is a special vehicle which administers about 2.8 million hectares of land in KwaZulu-Natal on behalf of black South Africans, represented by Zulu monarch Goodwill Zwelithini.
Listen to the podcast: The land debate: Understanding the Ingonyama Trust
Cronin’s views are in stark contrast to those held by his colleagues – notably Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Zweli Mkhize. He reportedly said property that is black-owned or controlled by traditional leaders won’t be targeted under SA’s controversial plan to expropriate land without compensation.
In recent weeks, Mkhize and other government officials have been on a charm offensive with traditional leaders, saying the state won’t act on a recommendation to repeal/amend the Ingonyama Trust Act or dissolve the trust itself. The recommendation was made in 2017 by a high-level panel led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe.
South Africa is weighing up the merits of amending Section 25 of the Constitution – also known as the property clause – to expropriate land without compensation.
After MPs voted in favour of a motion to begin a process to amend Section 25, the matter was sent to the Constitutional Review Committee, which will review whether it is necessary to amend the Constitution.
Public submissions to the committee closed on June 15. The committee has to report back to Parliament on its findings by September 28.
Cronin has been vocal about ANC’s land reform failures since 1994, as he recently described SA’s pace and quality of land reform as “pathetic”.
He is also against expropriation without compensation and the amendment of the property clause, as the Constitution already provides “effective mechanisms to achieve land reform”. “Black people do get expropriated. When they are expropriated there must be just and equitable compensation and that is absolutely important.”
Expropriation without compensation should happen in circumstances where land or property is abandoned or is already owned by the state.
Cronin has recommended that the government should accelerate the release of title deeds and land redistribution to salvage land reform. The focus should be on increasing security of tenure; in other words, the government must fast-track the release of title deeds, he said. “Millions of South Africans have insecure tenure. Something like 60% of South Africans do not have title deeds.”
Although the government has provided 3.8 million housing opportunities from 1994 through the Reconstruction and Development Programme – known as the RDP programme – many people don’t have title deeds for the homes they live in. “Land reform is about giving land to the poor, homeless and those without the security of tenure. Land reform and transformation is for black people but it’s particularly for poor black people, homeless black people and the insecure. That needs to be the big focus of land reform,” he said.