Letter by: Richard Spoor | Facebook
There is land restitution and then there is land reform. They are not the same.
Restitution is the process whereby persons dispossessed under apartheid laws can claim their land back.
Conceptually it was to be a legal process, claims were to be adjudicated by the land claims court and all settlements were to be ratified by it to ensure fairness and equity.
Very soon after it was enacted the ANC led government amended the Restitution Act to exclude oversight by the courts and to turn the Land Claims Commission, which was meant to be an independent entity, into just another arm of the Department of Land Affairs.
What land claims are settled, and the terms on which they are settled, is therefore entirely within the discretion of the officials and their political masters.
The effect has been terrible. Bad claims have been settled at inflated values and good claims lie for decades completely unattended to.
In the absence of any independent oversight, the only considerations informing the choice of claims to be settled are political expediency and the commercial interests of the officials, and politicians concerned and their cronies.
A few people, mainly sellers and so called ‘strategic partners’, have been obscenely enriched, but the majority of projects have been failures, both economically and from a governance perspective. The benefits that have trickled down to the dispossessed are meager and have not provided a sustainable basis for the dispossessed to prosper.
Land Reform or land redistribution is quite different.
It pertains to a government program to change the racially skewed land ownership pattern in SA.
Twenty two years on very little has been achieved. The reasons for this are not hard to find.
For a start there is no land reform legislation that spells out how land reform is to be carried out.
Fundamentally this means that there is no legislative framework that stipulates what land is to be acquired by the state, and how, and to whom, and on what terms it is to be redistributed.
There is not even a coherent policy document that spells out these fundamental questions.
Land Reform or land redistribution therefore takes place at the unfettered discretion of the officials and their political masters. They decide what to buy, when to buy it, on what terms and who to distribute it to and on what terms. They have 100% discretion and a budget that runs to billions. Happy days.
This is how it comes about that the Department buys a R97 million farm to lease it, for a fraction of its value, to a close friend of Minister Nkwinti, who knows nothing about farming.
This is how it comes about that the state decides to invest a further R30 million to recapitalize the farm for the Ministers chum, and this is how it comes about that within only a few years the farm has been looted and lies in ruins.
This happens because there is no legislative or other oversight and there is no accountability at all.
This is happening every day, it is the very essence of the state’s land reform program. It is looting and corruption thinly disguised as land reform.
The current land reform program of the DRDLR does nothing whatsoever to address the injustices of the past, it costs the state billions of rands and it does enormous harm to the economy.
So why is there no land reform act, why is there no regulation or oversight?
Simple, because if there were officials and politicians could be held to it. They don’t want that, they want an unfettered discretion to dispense favours and patronage.
Surely this is illegal?
Yes it is, it violates the principle of legality which is the legal ideal that requires all law to be clear, ascertainable and non-retrospective. It is a principle that is enshrined in our constitution, but which in the context of land reform goes unobserved.
So why doesn’t anyone do anything about it?
Essentially because no one is aggrieved. The seller of the land is happy, the person who receives the benefit is happy and the citizens and the taxpayer know no better. What is it to them if another farm collapses?
Also it’s a holy cow. Land reform is good so don’t question it. A few projects fail? It’s the price we must pay if we are to achieve radical economic transformation.
It is enough, it really is time for South Africans to stand up.
Most of what passes as land reform in our country is a fraud being perpetrated upon South Africans by a corrupt and incompetent political elite.
It must stop.
It makes me very angry.