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IMC on Land Reform and Agriculture Shines Light on Land Invasions

September 9, 2020

The Presidency

The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Land Reform and Agriculture has mandated the agriculture, land reform and rural development department to consider setting up an internal conflict resolution mechanism designed to amicably address land disputes.

The presidency announced this in a statement following a meeting of the IMC last week chaired by deputy president David Mabuza.

The conflict resolution mechanism would, in particular, focus on issues relating to land invasions.

During the meeting, the deputy president called for “humane decisive action by authorities and other land custodians, in responding to the recent spate of illegal land invasions”.

“The meeting considered, amongst other things, progress on the State Land Allocation plan, the challenges which included the land invasions, as well as the Beneficiary Selection and Allocation Policy.”

The Draft Land Court Bill and Draft Expropriation Bill were also considered for tabling in cabinet for approval.

Speaking during the justice and constitutional development department Budget Vote 2020/21 in parliament in July 2020, the justice and correctional services minister, Ronald Lamola, revealed that the department plans to table a Draft Land Court Bill in parliament during the current financial year.

The minister added that the proposed legislation is designed to set up a Land Court to replace the Land Claims Court in the current system.

“Under this bill, the Land Court will have the jurisdiction to deal with certain identified national laws which have a bearing on land and also promote and provide for Alternative Dispute Resolution structures similar to those of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). This special court will play a critical role in land jurisprudence.”

The Draft Expropriation Bill, designed to provide for the expropriation of property for a public purpose or in the public interest, was published for comment in Government Gazette 42127 in December 2018.

The proposed legislation focuses on, inter alia, powers of the minister of public works to expropriate, investigation and valuation of property, intention to expropriate and expropriation of property, compensation for expropriation, mediation and determination by court, urgent expropriation and withdrawal of expropriation.

The draft bill will empower the public works minister to expropriate property for a public purpose or in the public interest.

Expropriating authorities will be expected to request the municipal manager of the municipality in which the land to be expropriated is situated to inform them of the effect that the expropriation is likely to have on municipal planning.

The draft bill also stipulates that the expropriated holder of an unregistered right in a property that has been expropriated is entitled to compensation.

Compensation to be paid to an expropriated owner or holder must be just and equitable reflecting an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of the expropriated owner or holder.

The proposed legislation also stipulates that it may be just and equitable for nil compensation to be paid where land is expropriated in the public interest under certain circumstances such as where the land is occupied or used by a labour tenant, where the land is held for purely speculative purposes, where the land is owned by a state-owned entity and where the market value of the land is equivalent to, or less than, the present value of direct state investment or subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the land.

According to the presidency, the IMC supported the tabling of the Draft Expropriation Bill in parliament.

The IMC also agreed to discuss farm murders at its next meeting pointing out that farm murders disrupt and hamper agricultural production and discourage “aspirant farmers from entering the agricultural sector, thus threatening its sustainability and contribution to the economy”.

Meanwhile, the agriculture, land reform and rural development department has announced an agreement between South Africa and the Republic of the Philippines for the export of South African citrus fruit to the Philippines.

In a statement, the department indicated that the conclusion of the agreement follows intensive exchange of technical information between the two countries.

“This exchange has been ongoing since 2009, and aims to ensure that no citrus fruit, which might pose a risk in terms of pest and diseases, is exported to the Philippines.”

Detailed prescripts of the exports agreement reached with the Philippines will soon be communicated to all role players towards ensuring full compliance.