South Africa is looking at tougher measures to speed up land
reform - which could include challenging prices that white farmers
are demanding to cede their property - as part of the drive to
address injustices from the apartheid era, a top official said.
Tozi Gwanya, the chief land claims commissioner, said in an interview
that black ownership of land had increased from 13 percent at
the end of apartheid in 1994 to 16 percent, still short of targets
set by President Thabo Mbeki's government.
"We are not happy with the pace and we are reviewing the
willing buyer-willing seller policy," he said, acknowledging
that the programme had fallen way short of the target of redistributing
30 percent of land to blacks by 2014.
The willing buyer-willing seller principle has been at the core
of South Africa's post-apartheid land drive, guaranteeing that
land will be acquired by the state at fair prices and given to
"We are thinking of setting a ceiling on land prices depending
on the region and the land and to establish our own valuers as
those used by white farmers are in cahoots with them," said
"Also the white farmers think they can demand any price
simply because they are dealing with the government and not an
individual," said Gwanya who took up the post of chief lands
commissioner in June 2003.
But Gwanya was quick to underscore that South Africa would not
tread the path of neighbouring Zimbabwe, where forcible seizures
of white-owned farms have ruined the once-model economy and left
agriculture in tatters.
"There is no chance of Zimbabwe happening here," he
said. "There is clear legislation. I tell people: You have
a choice. You can opt for a militant policy and ruin your economy
and make all the people suffer again, or you can chose for slow
and steady reforms."
Gwanya said the reforms were also snagged by the lack of farming
expertise among blacks as "Africans in South Africa were
de-skilled for 50 years under apartheid because the white farmers
feared competition and we have to transfer skills anew".
There are three strands in South Africa's land reforms policy
launched in 1996 which seeks to reverse an infamous 1913 act that
stripped black cash tenants and sharecroppers of their domain
and reserved only 10 percent of the land for them.
During the apartheid era, blacks could not own land except in
the so-called African homelands where they had been shunted to.
The first strand is the restitution of land to blacks who were
forcibly evicted from their ancestral domains, the redistribution
of farmland, and the handing out of title deeds to people who
have been living for generations in an area but with no documents
to prove it.
Gwanya estimates that "six million Africans fell victim
to the apartheid government's policy to remove the black spots"
and push them away to homelands but added that less than 10 percent
had filed claims by the December 31, 1998 deadline for restitution.
"Some were sceptical, others did not want to file a claim
thinking it was their 'own' government now whom they did not want
to pressure and some - especially those in far-flung areas - did
not know of the scheme we had launched."
As far as formally recognising people living on land for generations
but with no title deeds, the government in February extended the
deadline by two years to 2007 due to "problems in mapping
the land which are in remote areas and sometimes due to rival
claims which are hard to establish," Gwanya said.
But 58 000 of those claims out of a total of 79 000 have been
settled, he added.
Land is an emotive issue in South Africa, which is shedding the
last vestiges of the legacy of apartheid.
In February, the government's announcement that it was mulling
new laws compelling property buyers to disclose their race, gender
and nationality to monitor the land reform process, sparked criticism
from the opposition that it was racist and retrogressive.