/ 7 September 2006

New steering committee for land affairs established

The Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs has formed a national steering committee (NSC) to consider the recommendations of last year’s land summit, Minister Lulu Xingwana said on Thursday.

”The NSC has to date developed and adopted terms of reference to guide its operations,” the minister said at a press briefing in Pretoria on her first 100 days in office.

She said the NSC will, among others, comprise government officials, organised agriculture and labour, and mass movement and faith-based organisations.

The directors general of the Department of Land Affairs and that of the Department of Agriculture will co-chair the NSC.

Four technical task teams have been appointed within the NSC to focus on policy, legislation, implementation and other topics.

”The technical teams are currently working on addressing these issues.”

Xingwana said the task teams should collate work done by different organisations and have ”this body of information discussed and interrogated by relevant technical task teams”.

The teams will meet in September to discuss land tax, the willing buyer/willing seller principle and other matters.

She said the willing buyer/willing seller principle does not and ”should not” apply to restitution as restitution is a rights-based programme.

”Once a claim has been validated, there is no need for the willing buyer/willing seller approach on the claimed land as this should be understood to be a forced sale as there is only one buyer [the state] and one seller [the land owner],” she said.

The minister said land reform in South Africa is a public-interest issue and expropriation should therefore be carried out for purposes of public interest.

The state, as pointed out in the Constitution, should consider ”just and equitable compensation to the land owner”.

She said the government respected the justice system and the rule of law in South Africa.

”We will uphold the decisions of our courts should any of our land and agrarian reform interventions be found to be unconstitutional by our courts.

”The South African government is also committed to security of land tenure for all its citizens, black and white …,” she said. — Sapa