Submission by the Association for Community and Rural Advancement to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works regarding the Expropriation Bill
The Association for community and rural advancement submission to the Portfolio Committe on Public Works regarding Expropriation Bill (B16-2008) oral presentation by Marcia Manong.
17 June 2008
Chairperson Tobias, Portfolio Committee Members, my name is Marcia Manong, I represent an organization called the Association for Community and Rural Advancement (ANCRA) which is a land service and rural development organization based in the Northern Cape province. Thank you for this opportunity to express not only the opinion of my organization but the opinion of thousands of landless rural people living in remote areas of the Kgalagadi who envisage the day they will receive just and equitable redress for the dispossession of their ancestral lands.
The struggle for land in South Africa is fundamentally a struggle over land rights, access to land, and the right of individuals to a sustainable livelihood on the land. It is a struggle that was born during the era of colonial and apartheid land dispossession, which confined Africans to 13% of the land and reserved the remaining 87% of the land for white farmers and the state. Fourteen years into the new dispensation, and the 1955 Freedom Charter promise to reverse the apartheid landscape or the 1994 Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) promise to redistribute 30% of the land within the first five years has not been fulfilled. To date less than 5% of the land has been redistributed, and the question we are asking our government is this: are you as government so intimidated by white land owners and their threats that expropriation will lead to famine because you will be taking land out of white hands and putting it back into the hands of the original land owners and this supposedly will impact negatively on investor confidence? We suggest that investor confidence both national and international has expressed greater concern about the long delays in finalization of our land restitution and redistribution programmes. These delays will only breed discontent by the landless and possibly lead to actions none of us want to see taking place in South Africa.
Organized agricultural unions in South Africa profess to be feeding the country, and because of this, they believe government should not even think of expropriating land from them. If they are feeding the country, then why are so many people in South Africa hungry, why are we importing wheat, and maize when the price of bread is so high, why are we importing meat, and other food products? I suggest that this is a misconception, that they are not feeding the country. Instead, they are busy turning their agricultural farms into game farms, eco-tourism hubs, golf courses and bio-fuel production centres, which means less land is being used for agricultural food production.
There have been complaints that say government gives land to blacks through the government’s land reform programmes and those very lands are not managed well and do not become sustainable developments capable of profitable agriculture. We accept that there are such examples of failed land redistribution. However, we do not believe that is justification for not continuing to give land to the landless. We say improve the post land-transfer support to those black emerging farmers including capacity enhancement and development capital just as the previous government gave years and years of subsidies and land to white farmers to get them to the levels of commercialised farming they participate in today.
We accept that our government needs to be fair and we believe they have shown a fairness that never before existed. They are not grabbing land, as some would have us believe. They not only pay compensation for any land that is expropriated but they commit to ensure that the compensation is just and equitable. That does not mean the compensation has to be market driven, since the farmers practice of not being “willing sellers” has already inflated the market.
As in historic time, the present is characterised by land being a means of power. This is why land is an issue of rights. Land is far more than a productive mean and a commodity. The right to land is directly and indirectly also the right to perform and practice ones culture, participate in democracy and be included in development and economic growth. This growth and participation in democracy cannot be for a minority elite, nor based on race, class, sex, nor on the amount of power, wealth, or knowledge one has accumulated.
Today the historical significance of land distribution is indisputable. Though this is not a nostalgic argument that we wish to forward here, rather, the historical experience teaches us and indeed the South African landless people, that the interests in and control over land remains a contested issue. Therefore, we believe that the land rights perspective that we take is a necessary one, as the rights perspective sees land as a part of a complexity including socio-economic rights, pluralistic democracy, gender equity, and sustainable development.
The rights perspective is not a sole option or approach to the land challenge. Far more common is and has been, approaches on productivity. This approach takes up discussions of land ownership as an incitement for productivity, farm-size as measure, choice of crops and others. This approach has a risk of leaving out issues of the smallholder’s well-being and rights protection. The African culturalist approach might tend to romanticise the original and traditional relation to land. This comment is not meant to undermine indigenous knowledge; in fact, we encourage the promotion and recognition of indigenous agrarian knowledge and skills. However, we also recognise the need for us to incorporate other approaches. Newer approaches take up land as a cause of inequity dealing with democracy and justice in the administration of land.
The failure of post-apartheid market-driven land reform has worsened the impact on the nation’s poor. The mechanisation and casualization of farm labour and the continuing spate of illegal farm evictions and abuses of farm dwellers has contributed negatively to land reform.
ANCRA is in favour of the proposed new Expropriation Bill (B16-2008) because we believe it:
1. Seeks to realise Section 25 of the South African Constitution
2. Seeks to align this new legislation with the constitution
3. Seeks to respond to the demands of the Land Summit of 2005 which called for the scraping of the “willing seller” “willing buyer” approach to market-led land reform.
4. Seeks to make compensation provision for the unregistered rights of land occupiers such as farm workers
We would however make a few suggestions for consideration in the new bill
- When you expropriate land we believe you should expropriate not just the surface rights but also the mineral rights (under ground), whether they are old order rights or new rights. And first consideration for those mineral rights should be given to whoever will become the new land owner. ( We have first hand experience where a rural community (the Maremane) was restituted to land only to have someone turn up within a few weeks of their occupation of their new lands, put up a sign that tells the new owners “do not enter” because he has mineral permits to mine their land).
- We appreciate that anyone whose land is expropriated, has a right under this new legislation to appeal at court if they feel they have not been treated fairly. We suggest that there needs to be a time limit to the entire expropriation processes inclusive of court appeals to not exceed 12 months.
- It is critical that the Regional Advisory Boards are representative, inclusive of landless representatives. We would be concerned that the issues of skills levels not be used as a means to exclude poor previously disadvantaged people.
- Please ensure that when the bill becomes law that it gets implemented without delay and used not as a last resort but as needed to help South Africa bring transformation to the unresolved land challenge.
Finally we wish point out the MEC for Agriculture and Land Affairs in the Northern Cape Ms. Tina Joemat-Pettersson just last week made a statement that the controversial Expropriation Bill will never become law because it is illegal and unconstitutional. We don’t agree with her and in fact think that someone in such a critical position as she holds should be more careful of the public statements she makes. We think it is quite unfortunate and actually misleading for her to make such statements and in our opinion it suggests she has not done her homework. Having said that we must also say that we accept all voices must be heard, those we agree with and those we don’t.
Thank you once again for allowing the voice of poor rural people to be heard, thanks to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and those who have worked behind the scenes for having the courage to address this contentious issue of expropriation, the same kind of courage shown by the youth of 1976 when they stood and faced the apartheid regime and boldly said enough is enough. We appreciate your stand, to approach the challenge of expropriation when others would rather sweep it under the carpet and let it remain a stumbling block to South Africa’s land reform.
There is no doubt that to settle rural land claims, which is in the public interest to do so, we need to accept that expropriation will have to occur. In the Northern Cape where ANCRA works there are not sufficient unattached or state lands to settle the current rural claims. So let’s do the right thing.
I thank you!