19 May 2017

South Africa: Land Audits to Determine Who Owns SA

Photo: Lollie-Pop/Wikipedia
(file photo).

Cape Town — Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti says there is a need to conduct a land audit in terms of race, gender and nationality to determine who owns land in South Africa.

The Minister said this when debating on the department's Budget Vote at the National Assembly on Friday.

He said land ownership was one of the reasons that stood in the way of radical socio-economic transformation.

"Our biggest challenge remains the answer to the question - who owns South Africa?

"In terms of phase one of our land audit, it became clear that we still needed to conduct an audit in terms of land ownership by race, gender and nationality.

"We have just concluded the latter process," the Minister said.

Minister Nkwinti said despite this, challenges remained because of gaps that are caused by absence of information in respect of institutions such as trusts, private and public organisations and companies, including sectional title holdings.

The information gap is caused by, among others, the absence of dynamic, interactive relationship between the National Geomatics Management System and the Deeds Registration system, the Minister said.

"We have projectised the land claims process. This was a strategic error, which did not take into account fiscal constraints, complexities associated with the verification or validation of claims, court challenges and internal capacity constraints.

"In terms of moving forward, we are working on transforming the Land Claims Commission into a Chapter 9 institution.

The National Geomatics Management System, Deeds Registries and Office of the Valuer-General will be listed as Schedule 2 entities in terms of the Public Finance Management Act," he said.

Cabinet considering land audit Phase Two report to address challenges

Meanwhile, the Minister said a further challenge to land reform relates to water rights being allocated to individuals and not the land.

This means that when an individual sells the land, he or she leaves with the water rights, leaving the new owner with structural challenges.

"An audit needs to be conducted in respect of both these issues because they negatively impact on land reform farms.

"Although regulated by laws, compliance with an enforcement of such legislation needs to be strengthened.

"A lot is happening in these functions with minimal accountability," he said.

The Minister said the second institutional challenge was that unless an owner expresses a need to change and submit information voluntarily, the current legal system is unable to compel them.

This leads to the owners deliberately withholding information about the changes of land.

"Cabinet is considering the report of Phase Two of the Land Audit and we are expecting strong decisions to address all these institutional challenges and the Land Commission provided for in the Regulation of Agricultural Land Bill will enforce disclosure of ownership of land and landed property," the Minister said.

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