11 February 2021 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Pixabay

The Department of Political Studies and Governance at the University of the Free State (UFS) hosted a webinar with the South African Institute for Race Relations (IRR) on The Land Question in South Africa: Challenges and Prospects. This comes after South Africans had until 31 January 2021 to provide commentary on the Land Exploration Bill.

Experts from both the UFS and IRR delivered presentations on many of the challenges facing the land expropriation process and suggested it may not be as straightforward as the political fraternity would like it to be. The discussion was moderated by Prof Hussein Solomon, academic head of the Department of Political Studies and Governance at UFS. The webinar took place on Tuesday 3 February 2021. 

Government failures hinder effective land reform implementation 

The implementation of the Land Reform Bill is not straightforward, with various legal, political and social aspects to consider. Dr Ina Gouws, lecturer in Political Studies, mentioned in her presentation that the expression ‘smudge’ refers to “the management of policy implementation in South Africa which has been marred by an administration causing a massively smeared landscape, where little progress has been made towards growth (economic) or development. This ‘smudge’ also exists where land reform is to be planned, developed and implemented’’. 

Dr Gouws added that land reform is necessary and “when implemented effectively has the potential to add to growth and development”.

How will land reform impact property rights? 

One of the burning questions around the Land Reform Bill is whether property owners would forfeit their rights when the bill has been passed through parliament. 

Dr Anthea Jeffrey, Head of Special Research at the IRR said it was discussed what the Bill would hold in store for property owners if there were no compensation if their land were expropriated. Dr Jeffrey stated that “the nil (zero) compensation under clause 12/3 of the Bill is a situation where the state plans to take ownership, in other words, it is envisaging a direct expropriation. But this clause refers to land only and raises questions about improvements that have been made to the land, such as buildings, shopping centres and mine shafts”.
Dire economic state of traditional communal land 

Prof Phillippe Burger, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the UFS, said the webinar was a platform to engage over land reform as “it doesn’t get the attention that it should”. Prof Burger’s discussion was on The Forgotten: South Africa’s Former Bantustans today. He said land reform in South Africa focused on two issues   the skew racial profile of commercial farm ownership, and the tenure rights of communal land under traditional leadership. “Communal land is actually the land of the former homelands or Bantustans of apartheid South Africa,” said Prof Burger 

He said the dilapidated economic conditions of these former homelands could be measured by the number of pit toilets in schools in these areas. “The map of pit toilets basically traces out the map of the old homelands,” he said. 

Watch: Recording of webinar here:

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