Most SA land is in private hands – survey

Land owned by private individuals, including foreigners, accounts for nearly 1 million hectares of South African land compared with government, which owns 17 million hectares, a land survey by the department of rural development and land reform has revealed.

The results of the survey, which were announced in Pretoria during a Cabinet briefing this morning, also show that, of the 113 million hectares of land in the country, 96 million hectares belong to organisations and public entities, while the rest is unknown.

This means that government only owns 14% of the land compared with 79% of land in private hands, while 7% could not be verified.

The results were released by chief land surveyor-general Mmuso Riba in the Audit of Registered State Land and a desktop analysis of the Private Land Ownership report.

The report, which has been approved by Cabinet, determines how much land is owned by the state and private entities and what the land is used for.

The land audit report also shows that the majority of land is used for:
» Residential areas (3.1 million hectares)
» Agriculture and fisheries (2.9 million hectares)
» Recreation and leisure (2.7 million hectares); and
» Community services (1.8 million hectares).

The survey also found that the state owns the least amount of land in the Free State province with only 845 084 hectares in state hands compared with 11.1 million hectares in private hands.

Government owns the largest portion of land, 28%, in KwaZulu-Natal, where it owns 4.6 million hectares, with 4.2 million hectares of land in private hands in that province.

While government only owns just over 1.8 million hectares in the Northern Cape, private individuals own a staggering 35.2 million hectares, while 248 455 hectares are unaccounted for.

In total, ownership of 8.3 million hectares of land in the country was unable to be determined, the survey found.

In the report, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti says the department’s main role is to “constructively reform land ownership patterns and to develop vibrant and sustainable rural communities”.

Nkwinti said the question of land reform was still a sensitive matter, which was exacerbated by the 1913 Natives Land Act which impoverished many black people by banishing them from their land.

The act resulted in black people being confined to only 13% of the country in the former bantustans, which only accounted for 16 million of the 113 million hectares of the entire state.

The survey also answers long-standing questions about the extent to which the act disenfranchised black people, and what land government actually owns.

Nkwinti said records about land ownership were usually uncoordinated and inadequate to answer this question of ownership.

“This overall view of land ownership in South Africa can now be used constructively in redistribution matters, tenure reform, administration and in a variety of developmental decisions to enhance the effectiveness of the land reform programme,” he said.

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