Land reform and restitution

14 June 2019 12:03pm
Land reform and restitution

Land reform and restitution

14 June 2019 00:00

Women’s Land Summit: Land reform and restitution – women leading the healing of the divisions of the past

A LexisNexis representative recently attended the Women’s Land Summit held in Stellenbosch on 11 April. LexisNexis attended this event as a key partner to the Law Trust Chair in Social Justice in the Faculty of Law at Stellenbosch University (SU), in partnership with the Division for Social Impact at the university.

Led by Prof Thuli Madonsela, the Women’s Land Summit sought to give women a voice on the land question and its social justice implications and in so doing uphold the rule of law.  This is vital and necessary, and comes at a time when the important role of women in the land debate has to be considered, since their history of engaging meaningfully across political, colour, class and other divides needs to be harnessed in finding solutions to healing the divisions of the past through land reform.

By sharing ideas and engaging in conversations about land as a form of restitution, the summit aimed at reaching a common understanding of how poverty and inequality could be reduced through the land reform process without undermining the rule of law, social justice or national unity.

The land question was discussed at length under the following three key headings:

  1. The Constitutional context and Socio-economic dimensions;
  2. Housing and Resources; and
  3. Sociological and Anthropological dimensions of land reform.

In doing so the following patterns in land reform which currently undermine the rule of law were identified:

  • A gap between the Law (Constitution) and reality, characterised by a dissonance between the constitutional vision guaranteed and anchored in shared prosperity and social justice, and land redistribution practices in the last 25 years.
  • A gap in knowledge as a result of a lack of education regarding land reform in general, and with each specific programme (redistribution, restitution and tenure security).
  • The common perception that market value is still the primary factor to determine compensation – leads government to be slow to expropriate.
  • Some voices being left out of the conversation – like the Khoi and San.
  • People still feeling disempowered in the land reform process – TRC was not enough – no apology for what was done in the past and no restoration means that people are still aggrieved.
  • Speaking about land reform being for only farming or for urban or peri-urban, or for other land users, it is important to disaggregate land for different purposes.
  • A very complicated institutional framework which needs to be improved by removing patronage and by streamlining and integrating the process of land reform. This also speaks to the importance of land acquisition and planning at the local level.
  • Land reform policies which are gender blind and insensitive to the vulnerabilities of women.

As a result the Trust Chair in Social Justice was requested to bring the following resolutions to the attention of Parliament and all heads of Political Parties:

  • Land redistribution must be expedited. Achievements of the last 25 years have changed some things, but are still lacking – the pace has not been good and the selection of beneficiaries has been questionable. For the sake of the youth and peace we need to do better, fast.
  • The policy should include a clear indication of beneficiaries and better protection of informal rights, such as those of farmworkers, women and those people residing in traditional communities.
  • The policy should accommodate multiple distribution pathways.
  • The policy should contain some incentives for those who voluntarily participate in land reform.
  • We should broaden the land use perspective beyond agrarian reform – when we think rural land, we should not only consider farming. Land may be useless for farming, but may be appropriate for factories.
  • Those who farm should be assisted to translate products into finished goods.
  • Land should be separated from agrarian reform, as land has multiple usages.
  • Land administration should be included as a fourth leg of land reform.
  • Address implementation capacity within the state and society. Use as starting point existing reports that have identified the gaps within the state and judicial system around the implementation of existing laws.
  • Address legal awareness including summarizing landmark cases, vernacular radio programs and helplines.
  • Facilitate a process that will ensure constitutional clarity, thereby addressing the question of whether the Constitution supports land reform in multiple ways or not.
  • Broaden the conversation around land reform to encourage voluntary participation.
  • Social justice should be part of a land reform policy – as long as there is injustice somewhere, there cannot be sustainable peace.

It was also agreed that a follow-up summit should take place in August 2019.