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Land grabs no option for S.Africa: minister

Published on 17/02/2012

South Africa's land reform minister on Friday ruled out land grabs as an option for Africa's biggest economy, saying seizures without compensation were "out of touch with reality".

“Land grabs are not an option, there is no policy like that. By doing so you will have to change the Constitution,” Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti was quoted by the Sapa news agency as saying.

“It is an option that is completely out of touch with reality.”

Nkwinti’s ministry is charged with overhauling South Africa’s problematic land reforms which have largely failed to successfully transfer farms from white owners to new black farmers to tackle apartheid land patterns.

South Africa has dismissed nationalisation or seizures of land, as in neighbouring Zimbabwe, despite calls from its radical youth league and follows an open market system where willing buyers sell to the state.

The emotive issue was raised in parliament this week with President Jacob Zuma on Thursday warning a white deputy minister “to tread very carefully” after he said blacks had no claim to nearly half of the country.

Deputy agriculture minister Pieter Mulder had asserted that blacks, barred from white areas under apartheid, had no right to 40 percent of land as they historically had not lived in South Africa’s western regions

“The land question is one of the most emotive issues in our history and present, and must be handled with utmost care,” said Zuma.

A new discussion document proposes the leasing of state and public land, limits on private land, conditions and obligations for foreign owners, and communal tenure on land under traditional chiefs.