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ANC introduces new policy on land restitution

Its new policy will be based directly on section 25 of the Constitution which states that expropriation of land must be accompanied by compensation that is "just and equitable".

Expropriation is also only allowed by the Constitution if it is in "the public interest" or for a "public purpose".

Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersen told a press briefing after the close of conference on Friday night that the Valuer General would decide on the price of land that would be expropriated and that if there would be "recourse to the courts" if deals were not concluded.

Joemat-Pettersen added that there would also be a "use-it or lose-it" policy in relation to agricultural land that was not in production and that land that had already been restituted to communities "could also be lost".

Balance of evidence
The conference had also decided "expropriation without compensation will only happen when land is acquired illegally" and that courts would have to decide on which land was acquired illegally and in a "nefarious manner".

According to the agriculture minister, the determination of illegally acquired land would "depend on the balance of evidence".

"We are impatient and we want section 25 [of the constitution] implemented," said Joemat-Pettersen, adding that, accordingly, the "Expropriation Act must be amended, fast-tracked and must be passed" by parliament.

This is, however, only likely to happen after the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung in December this year. Currently, the policy conference's decision is only a recommendation which will become official party policy that can feed government policy if it is confirmed as a resolution at Mangaung.

South Africa established a land reform and restitution programme in 1998 to address the forced removal of people from land through the 1913 Land Act and during apartheid, but it has suffered from severe backlogs.

Backlogs
An extra R2.3-billion was pumped into the programme last year to partially deal with the backlogs.

Joemat-Pettersen also announced that a land audit was to be completed by December this year. The conference also recommended that small-scale farmers be aided with government-sponsored agricultural equipment and seeds.

While no restitution targets had been set, the minister said the "main focus is the utilisation of land."

It was also announced that there would be a re-opening of land claims "specifically for the Khoi San people" who had until 2013 to lodge land claims.

The decision will be considered a significant victory for the Khoi San communities that have been gaining socio-political momentum since a 2009 United Nations declaration that they were the aboriginal inhabitants of southern Africa.

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Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket.

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