DA: New land reform proposals are a recipe for disaster

The new land reform policy proposals tabled by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti are a recipe for agricultural disaster, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Tuesday.

“[They] will exacerbate insecurity, destroy jobs, escalate the already catastrophic exodus of farming expertise from the industry and have dire implications for food security in the medium term,” DA leader Helen Zille told journalists at Parliament. 

Zille said her party supported the approach of turning farmworkers into landowners, but wondered why government had made such a “profound departure” from the land reform model proposed in its National Development Plan (NDP), which had the buy-in of the DA and others.

Nkwinti’s final policy paper on land reform and restitution, finalised in February this year and titled Strengthening the Relative Rights of People Working the Land, has sparked alarm and uncertainty among South Africa’s farmers.

The document proposes that farm labourers assume ownership of half the land on which they are employed. This would be “proportional to their contribution to the development of the land, based on the number of years they had worked on the land”. The “historical owner” of the farm “automatically retains” the other half. 

According to the proposals, with a deadline for feedback of April next year, government “will pay for the 50% to be shared by the labourers”. This money would not be paid to the farm owner but “go into an investment and development fund [IDF] to be jointly owned by the parties constituting the new ownership regime”. 

Abandoned NDP model
“The government will deposit its contribution into the IDF, not to the farmer, for that would be double compensation. He/she will benefit, like all others, from dividends allocated by the IDF. 

“With that contribution, the government earns the status of ex-officio member of the management of the fund, and should be entitled to a single representative on it.” The fund would be used to “develop the managerial and production capacity of the new entrants to land ownership”, to invest further in the farm and to “pay out people who wish to opt out of the new regime”.

Nkwinti’s proposal appears to apply to those workers who have worked and lived on a farm for 10 years or longer. 

Zille told journalists on Tuesday that the Western Cape – of which she is premier – was keen to pilot the NDP’s land reform plan, building on the province’s experience of its own farm equity-share scheme. She questioned why government appeared to have abandoned the NDP model in favour of Nkwinti’s latest proposals. 

“Why aren’t we giving the NDP model a chance?” she asked. DA MP Thomas Walters said the NDP model included the establishment of land committees based on district municipalities. Here “all stakeholders – banks, government departments, local stakeholders – get together … with the necessary expertise to support land reform projects”. 

Such a committee would, in co-operation with commercial farmers, identify productive land that could be used. This included land already on the market, land owned by farmers under severe financial pressure and absentee owners who want to sell, as well as land in deceased estates, he said. 

Zille said the DA in Parliament would call for the land reform committee to debate Nkwinti’s latest proposals. “We will also oppose any legislation emerging from the minister’s proposals in their current form,” she said. – Sapa

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Guest Author

Related stories


Subscribers only

How smuggled gold destined for Dubai or Singapore has links...

Three Malagasy citizens were apprehended at OR Tambo International airport, but now the trail is found to connect to France and Mali

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

More top stories


Joel Embiid gets the nod, and though Curry has performed well lately, there are doubts that the Warriors will prevail

Beyond the digital cold war: Technology and the future of...

Several African governments have published plans to establish smart cities, including Cairo, Johannesburg, Kigali and Nairobi. They require the most advanced technologies available

Funding a vaccine will tax our limits

VAT should not be hiked, but a once-off levy on mineral resources or a solidarity tax seems likely

‘SA can’t leave its shift to a low-carbon future to...

Innovation and creativity is crucial to guide financing, say experts

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…