South Africa’s new land minister, Angela Thoko Didiza, to lead expropriation debate
South Africa's newly appointed minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Angela Thoko Didiza, will need all her passion and some serious skills to get the country's land-reform policy to work.
The ANC has been promising land expropriation without compensation, but during his State of the Nation address President Cyril Ramaphosa appeared to shed doubt on the policy.
Prior to her appointment to the new super-ministry, Didiza was an agriculture minister and chairperson for the committee looking at amending Section 25 of the constitution for the expropriation of land without compensation. She will now be the architect devising how exactly the country’s land reform policy will take effect. Speaking to The Africa Report on the sidelines of the opening of Parliament in Cape Town, Didiza had this to say:
- Land expropriation without compensation: “It’s [an] ANC resolution – the sixth administration must start and continue where we left off. I think that process will continue in motion […] at the moment, the legislature has started the process of the amendment of the constitution. Once the process is concluded the ministry will be the implementing arm, though the department will then do the necessary implementation of the policy.”
During his State of the Nation speech, Ramaphosa said Parliament will continue with its work on the land reform issue:
- “An accelerated land reform programme will be furthered during South Africa’s sixth parliamentary sitting – whether this is intrinsically linked to expropriation without compensation is still to be seen….”
For the Economic Freedom Front (EFF)’s Julius Malema this is a cop out after previous speeches and an unacceptable retreat from election promises to expropriate land without compensation.
- Malema told The Africa Report: “[In] the two speeches before the election he spoke about land expropriation without compensation, which was going to be done in a manner that would not disrupt the economy. [Tonight] there is nothing. People have voted, I was used and the issue was used for the election. Now that the elections are over, black men you are on your own, you are not going to get any land. That is the highest form of opportunism and we [the EFF] allowed him [Ramaphosa] to come here and not say those things.”
- “When he does not put the land as a priority it means you are retreating from the initial plan to expropriate land without compensation,” Malema said.
Not so, says Didiza: “My view is that the government is committed that we have a conversation and [will] ensure that indeed this does not remain a cry for society. What is important is that there’s land redress.”
Municipal, provincial and national government owns huge swaths of land across the country. Didiza is eyeing this and wants the State to start disposing of the land it owns.
- “How do we start to dispose of and actually release the land that is held by the State? Well, we have thought about that, we know where the land pockets are that the State is holding for agriculture, for development….”
Meanwhile, Didiza says she is studying the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture report that was submitted to Ramaphosa in June.
The panel looked a range of policy issues including restitution, redistribution, tenure security and agricultural support. Didiza says the report will be tabled before the cabinet before it is released publicly. “Well, I’m happy with it because the report will enable us to move on to certain areas,” she says.
Bottom line: Land reform could be the one issue that could make or break the Ramaphosa presidency. The EFF has made the land a major issue for the party and will not allow the ANC to retreat from this. Unless there is a mechanism to deal with the contentious issue we may see land grabs happening across the country.