Compensation for land has “never in fact been prioritised in national budgets previously”, Gwen Ngwenya, the head of policy for the Democratic Alliance, said recently.
Ngwenya was speaking at a policy debate on land expropriation without compensation at the University of South Africa, where she pushed back on the argument that compensation would be a financial burden on the state.
“That’s an amount that almost mirrors the amount that is currently allocated towards land reform,” Ngwenya said.
A reader brought this claim to our attention, so we checked the data.
How much has been set aside for land reform?
“At the end of the current financial year, according to the 2018/2019 national budget, expenditure on VIP Protection … will amount to R2.6 billion,” the think-tank noted in its report, published in March 2018.
The report defined VIP protection as “VIP Protection Services, Presidential Protection Services, Static and Mobile Security and the 21 (VIP) Squadron”.
The amount is spread across the department’s programmes, which include administration, rural development and restitution. The land reform programme has been allocated R2.7 billion.
Department of rural development and land reform budget (2018/19)
|National geomatics management services||R690 million|
|Rural development||R1.8 billion|
|Land reform||R2.7 billion|
Source: National Treasury
What does the land reform budget cover?
“The land reform budget funds government’s acquisition of land and redistribution of land, as well as efforts to secure people’s rights to land,” she said.
How much is set aside for VIP protection & other security?
According to the treasury, this programme is tasked with protecting local and foreign dignitaries. It also evaluates security for national key points and some strategic installations.
The programme’s VIP protection services has been allocated R1.5 billion.
South African police budget (2018/2019)
|Visible policing||R46.9 billion|
|Detective services||R18.8 billion|
|Crime intelligence||R3.8 billion|
|Protection and security services||R2.9 billion|
|Total expenditure estimates||R91.8 billion|
Source: National Treasury
Figures from the 2018/2019 budget allocations on land reform (R2.7 billion) and protection and security services (R2.9 billion) support Ngwenya’s claim.
Land reform includes restitution
But more context is needed. While the land reform line item is R2.7 billion, land restitution is an additional R3.4 billion.
“Government’s commitment to land reform includes restitution,” Hall said.
So while Ngwenya’s claim for spending on land reform is technically correct, it does exclude the amount allocated to restitution.
“The restitution budget funds primarily two things. It funds the acquisition of land and residential property to restore it to people who were dispossessed [of it] in the past,” Hall said.
“But it also funds cash compensation to land claimants. And we know that the majority of claims have been settled with cash compensation to date.”
Hall added that the restitution budget also funded the commission on restitution of land rights, responsible for investigating and processing restitution claims.
Land reform budget has ‘fallen by 32%’
Hall highlighted that the land reform budget had indeed been reduced in recent years. “Between 2007/8 and 2014/15 the land reform budget has fallen by 32%,” she said.
“In 2007 to 2008 the budget allocation to land reform was at 0.9% of the national budget. It’s never been above 1%. By 2014/15 it had dropped to 0.5% of the national budget.”
Conclusion: Government 2018/2019 spending on land reform nearly as much as on VIPs & protection
At a debate on land expropriation without compensation, the Democratic Alliance’s head of policy, Gwen Ngwenya, said the South African government has not prioritised compensation in recent budgets.
To illustrate this, she said the government’s current land reform budget mirrored that of its spend on VIP and protection services.
In its 2018/2019 financial year, the national treasury has set aside R2.7 billion for land reform and R2.9 billion for protection and security services.
While this supports Ngwenya’s claim, she may have overlooked that restitution is also part of the government’s land reform effort.
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