Land reform has progressed so slowly in South Africa that current claims alone would take 178 years to conclude if government were to continue working at the same pace.
This is according to Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) researcher Professor Ruth Hall, who spoke at a land reform debate organised by the University of Stellenbosch's business school on Thursday morning. PLAAS is a land rights research institution housed by the University of the Western Cape.
The debate comes at a time when Parliament is preparing to investigate the need to amend the Constitution, with a view to allowing the state the power to expropriate land without compensation.
During his last appearance before the National Assembly, President Cyril Ramaphosa urged South Africans to “wake up and smell the coffee” when it came to the urgency of the land question.
Hall said the 3.5 million hectares of land which had been restored to people might sound impressive, but next to the sheer volume of land claims lodged before the previous deadline of the late 1990s, it was insignificant.
“At the current pace, it is estimated that in order to address all the claims sitting with the government now, it would take another 35 years. And we are sitting with a situation where courts have ruled [that] government cannot process new claims without concluding the current claims,” she said.
Hall added that the new claims that followed the late '90s deadline are so numerous that it is estimated processing them would take government a further 143 years.
“So that is 35 years plus another 143 years. We got to this point [due to] the state of the economy, but also because the ANC and the EFF mean different things when they talk about expropriation,” Hall said.