DA Launches “Land To The People” Campaign

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Caucus Leader

The Democratic Alliance in Gauteng has today launched its Umhlaba kuBantu -“Land to the People” – campaign.

According to official figures, 55% of land in Gauteng is owned by the state or its agencies.

This land comprises 910 140 hectares out of the 1 654 800 hectares in Gauteng (see reply by Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform on 18 March 2011).

In land area, it is slightly larger than Cyprus and nearly the size of Lebanon.

This huge state land ownership gives a massive opportunity to redress the historic injustice of the 1913 Natives’ Land Act which was passed 100 years ago.

The problem is that the Gauteng Provincial Government has failed to identify and use this land effectively.

State land in Gauteng is owned by various national and provincial departments, state agencies and local governments.

According to official replies to DA questions in the Gauteng Legislature, the Provincial Government will only complete a full land audit in the 2014/2015 financial year. A partial audit was done of 4862 out of 6400 land parcels in 2010/11 and 2011/12. These land parcels range from 400 to 20 000 hectares.

The Gauteng Department of Local Government and Housing (LG&H) is the custodian of provincial land and can issue title deeds, but administration of properties is done by the Department of Infrastructure Development (DID).

Land reform is hindered by poor administration and lack of coordination between departments.

This is illustrated by the tragic failure of the Gauteng Farmer Settlement Programme (GFSP). In 1998, 300 farmers signed  three-year leases with an option to buy farms in the west rand area, including Doornkop, Luipaardsvlei, Elandsfontein and Rietfontein. The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) was to provide agricultural support.

They got notices in 2002 from the Gauteng Department of Public Works indicating that they could buy their farms. But instead of title deeds, they got apology letters, and the broken promises have continued for more than 10 years. Despite the intervention of the Public Protector, title deeds have still not been issued to 138 qualifying farmers who have been forced into poverty.

The DA has been attempting to assist one of these farmers, Mr Thabo Mokone (a document is available on request outlining his story and the sad saga of the Gauteng Farmer Settlement Programme).

Another missed opportunity is the slow progress in formalising informal settlements and providing residents with full title deeds.

There are 552 identified informal settlements in Gauteng which house about two million people. Those which are on suitable land should be surveyed and formalised with title deeds.

Many township areas still have inferior title dating back to the days of apartheid and these should be upgraded to full tradable title deeds.

The DA calls on the Gauteng Provincial Government to do the following to expand land ownership for those who were unable to obtain land under apartheid:

  1. Complete a land audit of provincial land as soon as possible.
  2. Expedite the issuing of all outstanding title deeds to RDP house recipients.
  3. Fast track the formalisation of informal settlements in suitable areas so that they can own the land on which they live with a full title deed.
  4. Identify valuable state properties that can be sold or developed to raise revenue.
  5. Liaise with other state land owners in Gauteng to identify land that can be used for development or given to beneficiaries for housing or farming.
  6. Issue title deeds to claimants in the Gauteng Farmer Settlement Programme, and expand the programme to benefit more previously disadvantaged people.
  7. Intervene to finalise long-running land disputes such as in Alexandra township where this is delaying development.
  8. Assist local governments to expand the issuing of title deeds, as in Cape Town where Mayor Patricia de Lille has pursued this aggressively.

Property ownership is a massive boost to economic growth and assisting people to uplift themselves.

It gives people confidence and they can get loans to start up a business.

Giving state-owned land away is effective restitution for those who suffered under apartheid.

There should be an education campaign so that people understand the advantages and also the responsibilities of being a land-owner.

A DA government in Gauteng would give a high priority to making best use of the 55% of state-owned land in this province.

We would have a specialist Land Reform and Title Deeds unit in the Premier’s Office to drive this process by coordinating the efforts of departments and cutting red tape.

We would also promote the share equity land reform model that is successful in the Western Cape.

We challenge the Gauteng Provincial Government to deliver “Land to the People”.

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