OPINION

Motlanthe panel's recommendations generally heartening - Agri SA

Organisation concerned about certain matters such as a proposal regarding sub-division of agricultural land

AGRI SA WELCOMES RECOMMENDATIONS BY HIGH-LEVEL PANEL ON KEY LEGISLATION

An independent, high-level panel, which was appointed to determine the effectiveness of legislation passed by Parliament since 1994, released its report on Tuesday evening.

This panel, led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, was appointed by Parliament to evaluate the legislation and the implementation thereof and to make recommendations. The panel’s focus areas included poverty, inequality, discrimination, land reform and nation-building.

Agri SA welcomes the findings set out in the panel’s voluminous 600-page report. Annelize Crosby, Agri SA’s head of land affairs and legal and policy expert, says the organisation is still scrutinising the report, especially the specific proposals for amendments, and is concerned about certain matters such as a proposal regarding the sub-division of agricultural land. “However, in general the report is welcomed and supported,” said Crosby. “The findings relating to the property clause are particularly welcomed given the current climate of uncertainty and irresponsible utterances made in this regard.”

The panel started its work in January 2016 and held many workshops and public hearings, processed written inputs from stakeholder organisations and persons and consulted experts on a variety of subjects.

The panel’s findings include the following:

-  A competent, development-oriented state is essential for achieving the objectives of the Constitution. However, based on the inputs provided by experts as well as the public, it is clear that the government fares very poorly when it comes to implementing policy and legislation;

-  In many instances the public and experts agreed fully with the content of the policy and legislation, but identified fundamental problems with the implementation thereof. This applies, among others, to land reform legislation;

-  There seems to be consensus that the implementation of legislation is not so much hampered by a lack of financial resources than by a lack of political will to give effect to the policy objectives, as in the case of land reform, where the panel found that there was a movement away from constitutional imperatives such as equitable access to land in favour of a system of state ownership.

-  About land reform there are various proposals, including framework legislation for land reform in general, which would make provision for specific guidelines, processes and requirements to ensure transparency, accountability and good governance of land reform, as well as legislation that will recognise the registration of land rights, such as those of people in communal areas, cities and on farms. It is also recommended that more transparent processes should be in place to select beneficiaries of land reform. Beneficiaries should also be able to indicate what form of tenure they prefer;

-  The economic and development outcomes of restitution to date have been poor. It will probably take between 35 and 43 years to process the outstanding restitution claims alone. Several recommendations are made around restitution, which includes the establishment of a research unit within the land claims commission, a proposal that the 1913 cut-off date should not be brought forward and that the old-order claims be finalised as soon as possible;

-  The panel recommends that Parliament should play a more active role to ensure that the executive authority implements legislation effectively. Mention is even made of penalties in the event of non-compliance by the executive authority;

-  Participation in policy and legislative processes by the public is not satisfactory. The legislative process should be reviewed to ensure more effective public participation;

-  The development of the agricultural sector must be prioritised because of the sector’s potential to create jobs and grow the economy. Consideration should be given to a national agricultural plan for this to happen;

-  Only 0,4% of the national budget is currently spent on land reform and only 0,1% is allocated for the acquisition of land. Moreover, land is not transferred to the beneficiaries but remains in the hands of the state;

-  An important finding is that the Constitution, and specifically the property clause, is not an obstacle to land reform. Payment of compensation is certainly not the biggest problem, but rather the corruption by officials, diversion of the budget to certain elite groupings, a lack of political will and lack of training and capacity.

"We trust that the ANC will take heed of the sensible findings and recommendations in this report in the upcoming policy conference in December", said Crosby.

Statement issued by Agri SA, Directorate: Corporate Liaison, 23 November 2017