The chairperson of the Presidential Expert Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture, Dr Vuyo Mahlathi has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet to expedite land reform in a way that will not compromise the country’s food security.  The panel has in the report also highlighted that by addressing the land question, the country would facilitate the delivery of social justice and the eradication of inequality in the country.

Mahlathi was speaking in Pretoria after releasing the panel’s report on land reform in Pretoria earlier on Sunday.

The report recommends among others, the amendment of section 25 of the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation, but with limitations.

Ramaphosa appointed the panel in September last year to provide a unified perspective on land reform and offer independent advice to the Inter-Ministerial Committee chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza.

Mahlathi says addressing the land question would facilitate the delivery of social justice and the eradication of inequality in the country. “ The panel’s report urges the President and his cabinet to expedite the land reform process, to resolve the outstanding land restitution claims, to release acquired private land, state-owned land and to much more effectively identify privately-owned land needed for redistribution. The report further provides beneficiaries’ selection guidelines to promote transparency, addressing the urgent need for human settlements, providing access to land for the landless, household food security, emerging black farmers, industrialists and entrepreneurs.”

According to the panel,  deadlines for the implementation of its recommendations should be strictly adhered to.  Mahlati says some recommendations can be implemented immediately, while a new white paper on land reform should be completed by 2021.

Mahlati has also called on the government to settle old and legitimate land claims as soon as possible.

“  The recommendations deal with immediate recommendations, where we believe as soon as we leave today the department can address some of the issues without delving into serious legislative processes which take time but we specifically gave the white paper process deadline of by 2021. We should have it because we recognise that some of the proposals that we’re putting forward are going to require a process.”

The panel has voiced its support of the proposed policy shift to use constitutional provisions to expropriate land without compensation.  Mahlathi cited that they agree that land expropriation without compensation may be necessary but only in limited circumstances.

This view,  however, has been opposed by some corners. AgriSA president, Dan Kriek has slammed the report. He expressed that he does not agree with the report’s recommendation of land expropriation without compensation.

Kriek refused to sign off on the report, and instead tabled an alternative report setting out the organisation’s own perspectives on land reform.

Kriek says AgriSA could not reach consensus with the panel’s findings and recommendations on issues such as land tax, title deeds versus state ownership of land, and land expropriation without compensation.  However, Kriek says despite the disagreements, he supports the bulk of the panel’s findings and recommendations.

Opposition parties have also criticised the report. The Democratic Alliance (DA)  says the recommendations of the report would be disastrous for the economy and investor confidence if implemented.   While, The Freedom Front Plus, which has also been at the forefront in the campaign against land expropriation also rejected the report.

The IFP says it will discuss the report tomorrow at it’s NEC meeting. The ANC, EFF are yet to comment.