Wits Student Programme in Law and Society seminar by chairperson of Oxfam South Africa, Mazibuko Jara called for better and sustainable land reform.

The chairperson of Oxfam South Africa, Mazibuko Jara, speaking at Wits this week, called for government to do away with its current land reform programme.

The Wits Student Programme in Law and Society hosted a seminar on law, culture, society, and justice on September 27 at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) Seminar Room.

Jara, who is also the executive director of Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda, a community owned rural development initiative in the Eastern Cape and a research associate at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Law and Society, said the government needs to do away with the practice of immediate cash payment for compensation as a means of land reform.

“The state in this country hasn’t really appropriated land for land reform. Instead they have prioritised market value and forgotten to consider other factors such as the history of acquisition and whose rights are affected among other things. The government uses the market value of the land to determine how much the previous owner will be compensated,” said Jara.

He said the inadequate transferral of land and the slow land reform process is a great cause of displacement. “Blacks were given title deeds that never get transferred to the new owner, who then cannot have the benefits, claims and rights to that land although they should have. Property affects rights.”

In section 25 on property, the Constitution states that no one can have their property taken away from them unless this is done according to law.

Jara said Section 25 of the Constitution and Land Restitution Act (1997) need to be reviewed since government has not achieved land restitution and the process continues to be slow. “The property clause needs to be amended. Private property has created an erosion of indigenous notions of what property is. Law on evictions undermines land reforms. We don’t have social forces to push for land reform. There is a concern for lack of a bigger commitment from government to provide a [successful] land redistribution programme for an equitable access to land,” he said.

WiSER research assistant Phumeza Majola said such seminars allow students to engage with bodies such as the university’s senate and government to tackle land reform. “I raised the point of remuneration in terms of land reform but government is not willing enough. [Backrooms] are rented out to students, so it highlights the issue of availability of land for students. Here at Wits, there isn’t enough space for the amount of students that need accommodation,” Majola said.

Wits School of Law and WiSER Professor Jonathan Klaaren highlighted the broader issues surrounding the concerns of land. “There are lots of direct issues with land. Land is also a lens through which lots of forms of property can be looked at. Like bad buildings, the way Wits is dealing with its properties, the way we reimagine Braamfontein, the way we think of student housing. Land is such a powerful symbol and analysis which you can use for other issues,” he said.



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