Redistributive policy

NOTICE | Terence Corrigan: “the priest’s egg” of ANC land policy

Terence Corrigan writes that the ANC policy document makes clear that expropriation without compensation remains on the agenda, but there are other areas where there appears to be a shift, such as the recognition of title deeds.

The expression “the priest’s egg” goes back to an anecdote about a young cleric – the priest – who found himself in an embarrassing position. An egg he ate for breakfast with his bishop turned out to be spoiled. The bishop offered him a new one, but observing propriety, the young man insisted that everything was in order. It was, he insisted, satisfying for him.

Originally meant to refer to something that was totally bad, “cure’s egg” came to mean something mixed – egg is part good.

This phrase comes to mind when reading the latest set of ANC discussion papers prepared for its upcoming policy conference, in particular its thoughts on land issues. (This is featured in the most recent edition of his diary Umrabulo; specifically, the section entitled “Strengthening Economic Recovery and Reconstruction to Build an Inclusive Economy”.)

Given that President Cyril Ramaphosa has invested a great deal of political capital in dealing with the “land question” through the Expropriation Without Compensation (EWC) programme, this aspect of ANC thinking is of paramount importance. . This applies not only to land reform, but more broadly to the issue of property rights. Indeed, the push for EWCs has created a headache for South Africa’s investment aspirations, as government officials have admitted from time to time.

Expropriation without compensation still on the agenda

The document clearly indicates that the EWC remains very much on the agenda. The failure of the constitutional amendment to the property clause represented a setback, which the document briefly notes. However, this confirms that this was only part of the overall strategy.


Progress towards adopting legislation on expropriation and strengthening land redistribution processes will give new impetus to the land reform agenda. This will also be bolstered by the establishment of a specialized Land Court as well as a Land Court of Appeal, as foreseen in the Land Court Bill, aimed at accelerating the country’s land reform program as well as resolve arrears and disputes over land claims.

As the Institute of Race Relations argued, the constitutional amendment – ​​serious as it was – was not the only part of the CEE campaign, and not even (necessarily) an essential part of it. The pending Expropriation Bill and the Land Court Bill could be used to achieve much the same objective.

The expropriation bill defines expropriation in such a way as to allow the deprivation of an owner of his property without it being legally qualified as an act of expropriation. It would thus be possible to declare the state’s “custody” of all land in South Africa in accordance with mineral and water rights, and in accordance with a decision of the Constitutional Court (this was the so-called Agri case). -HER). It also prescribes an expropriation procedure that appears designed to skew against the owner, providing the state – and particularly struggling municipalities in South Africa – with a powerful weapon to seize assets.

READ | ANALYSIS: Land expropriation – The Article 25 saga ended in 2021, but did that mean anything?

The Land Court Bill, on the other hand, is presented as a means of accelerating agrarian reform. Concerns include the provision that two lay assessors can be appointed to hear cases alongside the judge; the former may prevail over the latter on questions of fact. The bill does not specify how these evaluators will be appointed, and it is possible that activists will be appointed to these positions to ensure particular results. Here, their views could determine, for example, whether “zero” compensation is justified.

All of this shows more continuity with the past few years than change from them. These will hardly be reassuring for investors or for the agricultural economy. It’s the bad part of the egg.

However, there are some interesting comments elsewhere in the document.

He notes that the state has acquired a substantial amount of agricultural land but that these farms are not producing as they could. It is a common cause. It calls for collaboration between small-scale farmers and agribusinesses and for the provision of finance. Citing “anecdotal evidence,” he goes on to outline a three-pronged plan to increase the productivity of these farms:

‘1. Land ownership (title deeds) shall be transferred to eligible beneficiaries who are selected in accordance with the approved beneficiary selection policy. Strict selection based on merit and skills, as well as resource criteria, should be applied.

2. The financing of the production is guaranteed by the title deed. PSAP [Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme] funding (which needs to be rethought) for the improvement of real estate assets and agricultural infrastructure.

3. Establish links with commercial value chains, agribusinesses and public procurement programs.

It’s very interesting, and nothing more than the recognition of the importance of title deeds. The policy of land redistribution has opposed ownership for more than a decade, limiting the possibility of purchase to large producers, and only after years of working the land. The government even went to court to oppose a successful black farmer – David Rakgase – who was only looking to get the government to honor his commitment to sell him the property.

good portion of egg

Accepting the possibility of conferring ownership could mark a significant change in the government’s position. It would be for the best. It wouldn’t be a panacea – even as a means of raising capital – but it would be a necessary step in establishing a new community of confident and successful farmers.

This is the good part of the egg.

The paper, to its credit, notes that a thriving rural economy will depend on the resilience of enablers – infrastructure, local governance, etc. This is very true, but its realization will depend on the ability of the state to carry out its functions only in the areas where its failures have tended to be the most serious.

The same argument could be made about the prospects for success of the land reform effort as a whole – the new land administration architecture that has been proposed (such as the Land Reform and Agricultural Development Agency) does not only the prospect of continuing the current dysfunction, but aggravating the dysfunction through the complicated task of setting up new institutions.

READ | Elmien du Plessis: Draft amending law article 25 – Opening up possibilities to find common ground

It is a part of the egg whose quality the future will reveal.

It is unclear what exactly became of the priest and his unfortunate breakfast, although it is feared that if he had swallowed the egg whole the effect would have been most unsettling. Perhaps as the bishop watched, he felt he had no other choice. Maybe we were able to choose around that and only take what was nutritious.

Different parts of the ANC document present a similar dilemma.

– Terence Corrigan is project manager at the Institute of Race Relations.

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