/ 14 February 2008

Govt to speed up land redistribution

The government intends acquiring five million hectares of land next year in an effort to have 30% of agricultural land in the hands of black farmers by 2014, Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs Lulu Xingwana said in Cape Town on Thursday.

Currently, black farmers own 4,7% of farm land, she told a press briefing.

”We are saying that if we acquire five million next year we will be on target.”

She thought this was ”realistic” and said strategies previously used were being reviewed.

”We also need financial resources. The willing buyer, willing seller [principle] is not working. The public works minister is tabling the Expropriation Act, so we hope that with all these we can fast-track the process.”

Foreign land ownership would ”definitely” be regulated, she said.

”At this point in time we definitely agree that we have to regulate foreign land ownership. We will look at the options and international best practice.”

She hoped that half of the outstanding land claims would be settled by the end of 2008. These were mostly rural claims held up by disagreements between tribal chiefs over where boundaries lay, as well as white farmers disputing the validity of claims.

Expropriation would be used to settle claims not finalised by the end of 2008, she said.

Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said efforts to speed up land redistribution were part of President Thabo Mbeki’s ”apex priorities”, announced in his State of the Nation speech.

More attention would be paid to supporting the beneficiaries of restituted and redistributed land, to ensure it was productive.

”Recent experiences of land-reform projects that have failed or are under threat of collapsing have underlined the shortcomings of a singular emphasis on land acquisition and redistribution,” he said. — Sapa