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Land reform minister defends policies

By Hlengiwe Nhlabathi Political Reporter | 2012-06-12 07:07:31.0

"You cannot solve a national grievance through the market mechanism, because the assumption must be social equality."

ALL "firm minded" South Africans will eventually agree there is a need to amend sections of the constitution to address the land question as a national grievance, the minister of Rural Development and Land Reform said last night.

In what he termed "frank talk", Gugile Nkwinti said clause 25.3 of the constitution which facilitated the transfer of land actually frustrated the government's economic transformation bid.

He said the paradigm implied by the policy was irrelevant and cannot happen as it assumes that things are equal.

"Things are not equal. This can't solve the national grievance. Social equity must prevail," he said at a round-table discussion attended by black professionals as part of the ANC's strategy to source inputs ahead of its policy conference later this month.

"The angle through which we handle the debate that impacts on the constitution is the wrong one. It's not about the constitution but the paradigm which is implied that the market mechanism can actually resolve the national grievance, that is not possible, it can't happen.

"You cannot solve a national grievance through the market mechanism, because the assumption must be social equality."

While some people may argue certain aspects of the land tenure system proposed by the government were unconstitutional, it was the only way it could work, he said.

Nkwinti has slated critics who had threatened to take the government to court over some aspects of the green paper on land reform which they deem unconstitutional, saying then the constitution must be changed.

Presenting the paper in Parliament late last year, Nkwinti said constitutions were tools that were created to help society move in particular directions.

"When society gets stuck as it moves forward we must have the courage to review the constitution and, if needs be, amend it accordingly," he said at the time.

The government plans to transfer 30% of 82million hectares of land held by commercial farmers to black people.

It also wants to restrict the sale of land to foreigners, as per policies adopted in countries like Mozambique where foreigners are only allowed to enter into lease agreements. The intention was to first stabilise the land market, said Nkwinti, adding that it was a "very good" option.

Nkwinti said the government cannot say it has achieved liberation while it failed to resolve the land question.