Minister Nkwinti’s 2017 Department of Rural Development and Land Reform Budget vote speech is a huge anticlimax. At a time when the land question is re-emerging as a key issue of focus and debate within society, the Minister’s speech basically has nothing to contribute towards this debate.

His speech starts by repeating policy objectives from the 1992 ANC document “Ready to Govern: ANC policy guidelines for a democratic South Africa”, and then moves onto repeating points from the “National Development Plan 2030” that was endorsed by government in 2012.  An attempt is then made to report on progress made by the Department against six objectives from the Medium Term Strategic Framework 2014-2019.   Reference is made to various programmes like the Agri-Parks programme, Strategic Farmer Support Services Programme, the 50:50 policy framework, the one hectare-one-plot programme, the one-farm-two-dairy cows programme, and others – the results of which are debatable.

Minister Nkwinti states that “the administration of the SPLUMA

[the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act] has been transferred to the Presidency”.  This contradicts what the Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Andries Nel said in his speech the day before: ”the process to reassign the SPLUMA from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to CoGTA and  DMPE (sic) [Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation] is at a very advanced stage.” Could it be that Minister Nkwinti has no idea where exactly SPLUMA is going?

A few of the challenges faced by the department are then highlighted relating, for example, to the difficulty (due to the way that data is gathered) in determining who owns what land in South Africa (a surprising acknowledgement more than 23 years after a new democratic government), and to challenges resulting from water rights being allocated to individuals and  not to the land.   In relation to the land claims process, the Minister highlights “fiscal constraints, complexities associated with verification/validation of claims, court challenges and internal capacity constraints.”  Besides talking about converting the Land Claims Commission into a Chapter 9 Institution it is unclear how the department plans to address all these issues.

The Minister concludes his speech with a fairly compelling but limited vision that:

“by 2030, South Africa should: experience more integrated, vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural-urban (Rurban) communities (urban locations / townships, rural towns, agri-villages and farms), that are supported by requisite logistics (including warehouses, cold-storages, processing plants, managerial, technical and vocational training colleges); social and economic infrastructure (including road, rail and air); inclusive economies, development finance institutions (DFIs) and credit facilities; bustling markets, small, micro, medium and large-scale enterprises and industries (including agro-enterprises, agro-industries and agro-manufacturers), employing millions of people; and, supported by research, innovation and information and technology centres.” 

Considering the full body of his speech it is far from clear how such a vision will be achieved.

However, the most worrying fact in the Minister’s budget vote speech is what is not said.  It is still far from clear, as mandated by section 25(5) of the constitution, what reasonable legislative and other measures” government plans to take “to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis.”