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Is Zuma going to take your land?

By Staff Writer
At the African National Congress' (ANC) 103rd birthday bash last week, President Jacob Zuma said in his speech that he was committed to returning land to "our people, and the ANC calls on its government to act with the necessary speed to put the legislation in place, this year, to ensure that this happens!"
 
But Thomas Walters Democratic Alliance shadow minister of rural development and land reform poured cold water over these promises, , adding that he believes that this is all just "smoke and mirrors".
 
"Statements like this, I think, are frankly a lighting conductor to take attention away from the capacity of the state to deliver on land reform," said Walters.
 
The Constitution and context
 
Walters highlighted that these claims of land reform must be seen within a certain context. Thanks to the Nkandla scandal, Zuma is facing a reported 783 corruption charges, and with the 2016 municipal elections coming up, Zuma might be trying to win favours by taking away the attention from his own misfortunes.
 
"I think part of it, in my own personal opinion is that Zuma and the ANC need to divert attention away from the increasing problems of corruption, poor service delivery, and quite frankly the unkept promises. So one of the ways of doing that is to ramp up the more radical sounding talk," said Walters.
 
Zuma also said that "expropriation will be done in line with the Constitution and the Act [will] be passed this year."
 
However, Walters believes that this promise is misguided, as it is not that simple to pass an act.
 
"At the same time the ANC is saying that it will not be done outside of the context of the constitution. The constitution has very clear guidelines of when expropriation can take place, and that also includes judicial review. You can't just say 'one day I am going to make a law to expropriate land'," said Walters.
 
There is another dimension to this that goes beyond constitutionality, explained Walters. This has to do with the capacity of the state, when it comes to land reform.
 
"Currently we are sitting with a department that is incapable of delivering the most basic of land purchases. The department [of land reform], according to personal experience of complaints I have had to deal with, (…) is not capable of administrating that properly. It is not capable of administrating restitution properly. In last year's budget there was a R4billion shortfall on existing land claims; forget about the re-opening of land claims," said Walters.
 
Willing buyer: willing seller
 
"We reassert the correctness of the Constitution, but admit that usage of the 'willing buyer: willing seller` policy went on for far too long and had unsatisfactory results," said Zuma.
 
However, Walters believes that there are more than enough willing sellers, and that the lack of land reform has nothing to do with the constitution, but rather due to a lack of service delivery.
 
"The problem isn't money, the problem isn't resistance from anyone, the problem is purely a failing department that hasn't been able to organise. It is a shockingly an incompetent department. This is another of long list of popular statements about land reform," said Walters.
 
The last proposal was the 50/50 proposal, which made no sense, according to Walters.
 
"It boils down to farmers giving up 50% of their land to workers, (…) that was unconstitutional; it conflicted labour law, and it didn't make sense," said Walters.
 
"I regard the ANC's approach to land reform as a slow cancer killing our rural economy," said Walters.
 
Walters added that Zuma needs to step down as President, as he is not making any difference.

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