Reform assisted on communal property
…sent to clients 21 Oct….The tabling of the Communal Property Associations Amendment Bill could represent a major advance in bringing order to many aspects of government’s land reform policy. In essence, the Bill will ensure that householders have security of tenure and thus have the ability to raise capital before they enter into any agreement on the management of communal land.
The new Bill focuses on developing the practical and legal aspects of ownership of communal land by a communal property association (CPA) whilst at the same time providing security of tenure with a new initial procedure of naming householders to benefit. The draft has now been approved by Cabinet.
Whilst the thrust of government policy on land reform has always been to bring ownership of self-sustaining agricultural land to previously disadvantaged communities, the process has been much bedeviled by conflict over land falling under the control of traditional chiefs; the inability of small farmers to raise finance without title and, most important, for households able to enjoy security of tenure.
An unintended consequence of the original CPA programme launched by government has been that government has not wished to involve itself, nor has any investing entity for that matter, in the community strife and argument over communal land, a feature of many CPAs. Consequently, the CPA system has demonstrated its inability to involve itself in loans, any state support, or receive the support of agricultural assistance programmes.
It might be said that CPAs as a structural system is “off the banking radar”, a fact which MPs in parliamentary committee meetings have complained of a number of times.
As a result, expensive trusts have become the order of the day, banks preferring to deal with such entities and even government itself having to use them because of the informality of a CPA and the inability of loan applicant to show security.
The objective of the Act when it was signed into law was to create a new form of juristic person to allow disadvantaged communities to acquire, hold and manage property in common. A community that qualifies in terms of the Act can therefore, on the basis of agreement contained in a written constitution, form a legal entity (the CPA) and thereby become owners of property, including land, via the CPA.
A CPA as it currently stands allows its members to become owners of land which has been “prioritised for the provision of infrastructural support to land reform farmers to enable them to create sustainable jobs and alleviate poverty.”
However, over the few years since CPAs were established, it appears from parliamentary portfolio committee meetings, that things have not gone well. In some cases, traditional chiefs had intervened and gained control of land previously under the aegis of the members of a CPA. Meanwhile, traditional chiefs had complained that CPAs were acting like “chiefdoms” in themselves, the department told parliamentarians.
Tweaking and compromising
Some attempts were made by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to persuade CPA members to appoint traditional chiefs on an “ex-officio basis” but the situation remained untenable, not necessarily just because of the problem of traditional control but because, due to shortage of staff, they said, had no ability to monitor the situation and no picture of what land was under CPA control, where CPAs were, and their needs.
In addition, no measurement of outcome of any schemes appeared possible, Opposition members complained. Quite clearly, they said, the NDP land reform programme has not been successful to date. Whilst the idea had been along the right tracks, it seemed the system was patently in trouble.
Green Paper study
After two years of investigation, in 2014 the Ministry, produced a Green Paper on the subject. After creating communal property ownership rights, the new proposal in the Paper was to secure individual tenure to each household beforehand, be it a farm-dweller or tenant, and for each household to own its rights at law before the CPA was formed to lock into this.
As per the Act in force, it would be possible for a community or group of persons to have access to a registered title to land through common or joint ownership with every name included (in a deed of transfer) or through a trust (with title vesting in the trustees) or a juristic person (with title vesting in that legal entity). Once registered, the CPA would become a juristic person – that can sue and be sued. It could acquire rights and incur obligations in its own name, in accordance with a CPA constitution.
In a policy statement, a Bill was proposed along these lines with a CPA constitution as before dealing with sub-divisions, servitudes, the right to encumber with a mortgage, deal with leases and settle disputes – all essential to the development of the area concerned but in respect of nominated persons giving those persons therefore security of ownership.
The bigger picture
The new Bill therefore speaks to a process to align a CPA to the broader land reform mandate in terms of the policy statement. The Bill also says a Communal Property Associations Office is to be established which is headed by a Registrar of Communal Property Associations. As a result, CPAs will be better equipped, it is felt, to take part in development; its status is recognised and is known to government; and has a secure system of tenure established as a base for ownership.
DHA said the plan was to clearly establish the connection between the land itself and those who live on it and depend on it for agricultural income. With more clearly established security and a need to register for compliance, it is hoped that a CPA structure will present a more viable face to the investing world.
Previous articles on category subject
New approach to land reform – ParlyReportSA
Restitution of Land Rights Act reversed – ParlyReportSA
Land Holdings Bill joins state acquisition trend – ParlyReportSA