The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has deliberated on its report on the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land (PDAL) Bill and unanimously adopted it. The report now will be passed to the National Assembly for its consideration and debate.

The Bill proposes to address the shortcomings of the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act (SALA) of 1970 by facilitating cooperative governance in the administration of the Act. It also aims to address other identified weaknesses such as the fact that SALA is only applicable to privately owned land, which inadvertently prevents the protection of high-value agricultural land owned by the state, statutory bodies, communal land and land administered by traditional authorities.

The PDAL Bill further seeks to regulate all agricultural land and entrench regulatory measures to secure the protection of high-potential agricultural land. It also aims to promote a balanced approach to the use of agricultural land in South Africa by introducing strategic and technical instruments to preserve agricultural land. It intends to harmonise the need for use of agricultural land for agricultural purposes and the needs for non-agricultural uses in line with local authorities’ spatial planning.

The Bill was introduced in Parliament by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and referred to the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Committee on 2 February 2021. As part of the processing of the Bill, the committee was briefed by the department on 14 February 2023. Thereafter, an extensive public participation programme occurred in which print and digital media advertisements were published inviting the public and other interested stakeholders to submit written inputs to the committee on the Bill.

Public hearings on the Bill were conducted in all nine provinces from 30 June to 20 September 2023 and in Parliament on 10 October 2023.

The committee further extended an invitation to the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders (NHTKL) to submit comments, based on the public inputs and the role they play in allocating land in communal areas under their administration. The written inputs from the NHTKL and the responses to these comments from the department were then included in the committee’s deliberations.

The NHTKL was initially not part of the nationwide public consultation programme, after the committee received legal advice from the Parliamentary Legal Services on the constitutionality and tagging process of the Bill. Parliamentary Legal Services did not raise any constitutionality matters on the Bill. Legal Services was also of the opinion that it was unnecessary for the Bill to be referred to the NHTKL in terms of Section 18(1)(a) of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act, 2003 (Act No. 41 of 2003), as it does not contain any provisions that may have an impact on customary law or the customs of traditional communities.

The committee considered all the public submissions as well as the responses from the department on the inputs and identified the need for some of the clauses to be amended including, among others, an adjustment in the definition of “land owner”, which now means “a natural or juristic person, or a community, who holds a right in land, registered or unregistered, over which such person or community enjoys protection under any law”.

Nolizwi Magwagwa

1 December 2023