SONA wish list on land reform

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Tonight President Jacob Zuma delivers the State of the Nation address. Here are 5 things that President Zuma could do to turn around failing land reform:

  1. Implement transparent land redistribution processes with secure tenure rights (not caretaker agreements). Prioritise redistribution of land, rather than current policy of state leasehold that diverts money to ‘strategic partners’ and imposes them on would-be farmers. Tie land redistribution to a coherent pro-poor economic programme that targets the needs of small commercial farmers.
  2. Introduce a law that fills the void in communal land tenure legislation, which has left 17 million South African vulnerable to land grabs by mining companies and deals by traditional leaders. Legal recognition of informal and customary land rights would make people stakeholders in any process of development on their land, including mining (first step: enforce and expand the existing Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act).
  3. Ring fence and process the outstanding restitution claims lodged prior to 1999 and act to prevent spurious new claims by traditional leaders on behalf of ‘tribes’ from plunging the already struggling restitution process into further confusion and conflict.
  4. Support and enforce the rights of farmworkers by actively implementing laws that are already in place such as the Labour Tenants Act and others that provide for real rights. Government has turned its back on these laws in favour of a ’50-50’ investment proposal that opens the process up to elite capture.
  5. Recognise the legacies of spatial inequality and land dispossession, where black South Africans were excluded not only from land ownership but also from access to markets, agricultural education etc. Redressing this legacy requires tackling vested interests in the land sector head on.
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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