The small white landed class has benefited to the tune of R10.8-billion from land reform while the more than 71 000 restitution claimants had received a total of R6-billion, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti told Parliament on Tuesday.
The government had also had to pay more than twice as much for land restitution — that is, for the return of land taken from people after 1913 — than for land distribution, which is land acquired for resale or settlement of black farmers.
This was proof, said Mr Nkwinti, that where the state had been a "compelled buyer", land prices had been inflated.
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The figures also provide some insight into the reasons behind the government’s and the ANC’s proposals to switch from the "willing seller, willing buyer" principle in the acquisition of land to compensation that is "just and equitable".
During the state of the nation debate, Mr Nkwinti noted that "the numbers show clearly who has benefited from the programme".
Between 1994 and the end of last month the state had acquired 4123-million hectares for land redistribution at a cost of R12.9-billion. However, R16-billion had been spent over the same period to acquire 1443-million hectares for restitution.
"It is clear that through the restitution process, the state was a compelled buyer. Prices in restitution were far higher than those paid in terms of strategic land acquisitions under the redistribution programme," he said.
"This is a clear indication that where the state is able to strategically acquire land, it is able to acquire more land for less money, as the state is not a compelled buyer.
"But even by our own admission, we could have bought more, if the principle of a just and equitable redistribution was actively applied," Mr Nkwinti said.
Proposed changes to land reform policy, which again had been signalled by President Jacob Zuma at the opening of Parliament, were designed to change this he said.
"This is what the Office of the Valuer-General and other institutions will address, through the use of the ‘just and equitable’ principle in accelerating the land reform process," he said.
Commenting on Mr Nkwinti’s speech on Wednesday, the National Research Foundation’s chairman at the University of the Western Cape, Ben Cousins, said it was wrong to compare prices for land obtained for restitution — where the seller was able to negotiate a higher price as it involved a specific parcel of land — to land obtained on the open market.
"Evidence is that land prices are higher for restitution, but this doesn’t lead to exorbitant prices for land bought on the market. The argument doesn’t follow. It should also be remembered that restitution comprises a fraction of land reform transactions," he said.
Mr Nkwinti also told Parliament that the government had completed the long-awaited audit of land ownership, having concluded that the state owns 22% of land while 78% is in private hands. The audit was still analysing the composition of land according to ownership by different race groups as well as foreign ownership, he said.
The audit would provide further insight into the success of land reform efforts.