Land Tenure Summit – issues and background

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The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) is currently hosting a Land Tenure Summit in Boksburg, Gauteng, where various laws and policies on land reform are being debated. Read our background position papers, which were distributed at the conference and follow our twitter feed for the latest emerging from the Summit. The hashtag to follow is #landtenuresummit.

On 4 September, DRDLR Minister Gugile Nkwinti gave a keynote address. He was very clear that the Land Summit was not about setting policy but was about implementation of policies adopted at the Mangaung conference of the African National Congress in December 2012. He framed his comments on land tenure within the four-tier tenure system: state-owned land, privately held land, foreign-owned land, and communal tenure.

Today (5 September), ‘Commissions’ are underway where stakeholders will provide input and discuss four focus areas: the Communal Land Tenure Policy, Communal Property Associations, the Land Tenure Security for Commercial Farming Areas Policy and the Agricultural Landholdings Policy. Resolutions will emerge from these Commissions, but it is unclear to what extent they will be binding on the DRDLR.

The Rural Women’s Action Research Programme has prepared position papers that speak to two of the four areas being discussed at the Land Summit. They are listed below with reference to the Minister’s comments:

  • Communal Land Tenure: At the Land Summit, the Minister expressed the need to strengthen individual rights (in terms of use rights) in areas under traditional leadership. He noted that traditional leaders are not the owners of land. He said the Communal Land Tenure Policy would propose that land not used by individuals should be managed by traditional councils but with greater conditions on their decisions (such as 60% community approvals for certain decisions). Our position paper critiques the Communal Land Tenure Policy suggestion that land title should be transferred to traditional councils, but that individuals should have use rights. Once land has been transferred, it will be impossible to secure individuals’ rights. The Communal Land Tenure Policy’s proposal also undermines historical and existing land tenure arrangements, which include black people purchasing land and land being managed at individual and family levels.
    Download the RWAR Position Paper on communal land in PDF.
  • Communal Property Associations (CPAs): Minister Nkwinti took a very strong line against CPAs in areas under traditional leadership at the Land Summit, as he has done in the past. The DRDLR’s new policy on CPAs proposes that new CPAs only be established outside ‘communal areas’, where traditional councils do not exist. The Minister’s primary rationale was that if CPAs and traditional councils exist in the same region, conflict would be inevitable. Our position paper on CPAs argues that people should not be prevented from forming CPAs in communal areas or where traditional councils exist, as this would deny people’s ability to choose the landholding entity that best fits their needs and their land tenure practices (including customary practices). The problems with land conflicts will not be solved by isolating CPAs from traditional authorities, as there are many situations where traditional leaders are active CPA members and where land disputes exist in the absence of traditional authorities and CPAs.
    Download the RWAR Position Paper on CPAs in PDF.

    For updates, follow our twitter feed. The hashtag to follow is #landtenuresummit.

opinion-grey Tara Weinberg is a researcher in the Rural Women’s Action Research Programme, at the Centre for Law and Society, University of Cape Town.
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