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The issue of land and the constitution is a hot topic. Wits University Economic Freedom Fighters’ Student Command (EFFSC) hosted a public lecture on the subject by Advocate and Wits law school visiting senior research fellow Thembeka Ngcukaitobi, who said the current land reform programme is inadequate.
“Land is an economic asset that entitles you to a livelihood,” said the advocate. The land reform programme has many failures and those who have managed to benefit in regaining land have, in many cases, seen little or no improvements in their livelihoods.
“The Land Claims Commission [The commission that facilitates the current land claims process, is designed to compensate those who were dispossessed of a land right after 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws], which not many know about, has a budget of about R1 billion and is one of the most dysfunctional institutions as it is not performing according to its constitutional role,” he said. The land reform programme has largely focused on the restitution phases (land acquisition) of the process, to the exclusion of land reform implementation process. “Restitution is not going to sort the problem of landlessness. The duty is on the government to ensure redistribution through expropriation. A redistribution legislation draft was written in 2007 and passed by cabinet but not in parliament. Jacob Zuma still hasn’t signed it. A new expropriation act (last expropriation act was passed in 1975) could’ve been passed as early as 2008,” said Ngcukaitobi.
Nguckaitobi said that the government owns less than 20% of land available for redistribution. “More than 80% of the land is in private hands, which the government should take. They have an obligation to take the land and redistribute it,” he said.
“The government is paying too much market related compensation and settling cases they don’t need to. When the property owner can see they can get away with getting more, they will push the envelope,” said Ngcukaitobi.
Ngcukaitobi believes that occupation is not the most progressive method to expropriate the land without any compensation. “We need to force the government to do its job under the constitution. So everyone who is concerned with South Africa should be concerned with land. We shouldn’t only be confined to judicial systems. It’s time to reform the law of contract, property law and private law,” he said.
During the Q&A session, BA Education student Mangaliso Sambo raised the issue of student accommodation. “Accommodation is privatised by individuals who make money off poor [black] students but the public interest is there. [Black students] cannot afford to pass and be good students if they are still forced to travel from morning to sunset without a chance of rest and have no shelter in close proximity. Residences is not just a land based issue but also an academic issue,” said Sambo.
Third year BA General Wits EFFSC member and organiser Nolukhanyiso Gongxeka commented on the importance of understanding the issue of land reform, “The issue of land is not just about farming. It means taking ownership of the capital and the economic capacity that is owned mostly by white people.”
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