The South African government undertook to complete a comprehensive land audit by the end of June. Minister Gugile Nkwinti actually made this promise at the beginning of March.
The intention of the audit is to identify exactly which land the state owns. Estimates suggest a total of 25 % of all of South Africa’s land, but exactly where this land is remains a mystery.
Land reform is a national priority. Reversing the effects of the 1913 Land Act and subsequent apartheid legislation is a crucial building block of redress and reconciliation. How the process is handled is all-important and twenty years of stalling and blame shifting has severely undermined these goals.
Without this audit, attempts at land reform are in fact laughable. It does explain, however, why the department continues to resort to blaming the willing-buyer willing-seller approach instead of facing up to its own ineptitude in administering an audit.
Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson (head of the ANC’s land reform committee) yesterday commented that the land audit would now only be done by the end of the year. She also suggested that the scope of the audit would be extended to include foreign land ownership. What purpose this would serve is unclear at best.
This delay is causing unnecessary confusion and paralysis in the crucial national issue of land reform. Moving the goal posts yet again is an indication both of a lack of departmental capacity and political will on behalf of the ruling party to actually do the audit. It simply does not serve their interests to complete the audit prior to the centenary commemoration of the 1913 Land Act next year. Stirring up emotion is much easier when you have scapegoats to blame.
“I will therefore today be writing to the chair of the portfolio committee on land reform to request that both ministers appear before it to delineate the steps that they will now be taking to ensure that the December deadline is in fact met” said Athol Trollip the DA Shadow Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform.
Completing the land audit is therefore a crucial step on the road to reconciliation. The nation must no longer be held hostage to a department that fails to meet its own agreed targets.