With South Africa set to mark the centenary of the notorious 1913 Land Act this year, the government is taking a number of steps to speed up land reform - including a shift from the "willing buyer, willing seller" to the "just and equitable" principle for compensation for land acquired by the state.
In his State of the Nation Address to Parliament earlier this month, President Jacob Zuma announced that government would now pursue the "just and equitable" principle set out in the Constitution, instead of the "willing buyer, willing seller" principle which forces the state to pay more for land than its actual value.
Zuma also announced proposed amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act to provide for the re-opening of the lodgement of restitution claims by people who missed the 31 December 1998 deadline.
"Also to be explored are exceptions to the June 1913 cut-off date [i.e., claims for land confiscated before 1913] to accommodate claims by the descendants of the Khoi and San as well as heritage sites and historical landmarks."
Zuma said the government would also need to provide better incentives for commercial farmers that were willing to mentor smallholder farmers.
Speaking during the debate on Zuma's State of the Nation Address in Parliament last week, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said farms transferred to black people through various redistribution programmes, from 1994 until January this year, amounted to 4 813 farms. This translated to 4.123-million hectares, benefiting 230 886 persons.
He said a total of 50 440 beneficiaries were women (1.7-million hectares in the hands of women), while 32 563 were young people, and 674 were persons with disability.
Nkwinti said the state had spent R12.9-billion on land. Of the 4.123 million hectares acquired, the government had, since 2010, recapitalised 696 farms into full operation, employing 4 982 permanent workers and investing R1.8-billion in infrastructure, inputs and strategic support.
Of the 696 recapitalised farms, he said 332 were cropping and 364 were livestock farms. The gross income generated by these farms, as of 31 January 2013, was R126-million.
"Land acquired by the state for the restitution of land rights, since the inception of the programme [in 1995], amounts to 4 001 land parcels, translating into 1.443-million hectares," Nkwinti said.
"Of these beneficiaries, 136 968 are female-headed households, and 672 persons with disability have benefited. A total of R16-billion has been spent on the programme thus far. This in settling 77 148 claims; R10 billion for land acquisition, and R6 billion for 71 292 financial compensation claims."
Nkwinti said the 5 856 settled claims, translating into 1.443 million hectares, was land restored.
He said this clearly illustrated that claimants had chosen financial compensation over land restoration, which was a reflection of poverty and unemployment.
Nkwinti said a team of lawyers was working on the re-opening of land claims and addition of claims for land confiscated before 1913. The re-opening of lodgment of claims would take place once amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act had been signed into law by President Zuma.