Hearings on Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Bill Underway

July 21, 2023

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

The third leg of nationwide public hearings on the Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land (PDAL) Bill will take place in North West this weekend.

In a statement, the portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development confirmed that hearings have so far been held in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.

The bill was tabled in parliament in 2021.

The bill’s explanatory summary was published in Government Gazette 43990 in December 2020.

According to the explanatory summary, the proposed legislation aims to promote the preservation and sustainable development of agricultural land, establish an evaluation and classification system for agricultural land and demarcate protected agricultural land to ensure that high potential agricultural land is preserved and protected against non-agricultural uses in order to promote long term agricultural production.

Other aims include implementing a coordinated national framework, including norms and standards and authorisations for the use of agricultural land; promoting and encouraging viable farming units from a long term economic, environmental and social perspective; discouraging land use changes from agricultural to non-agricultural uses to prevent the fragmentation of the agro ecosystem and facilitating concurrent land uses on agricultural land without jeopardising long term food security.

The bill also seeks to set up a national agro eco information system with georeferenced information to support the object of the act.

Cabinet approved the bill at the beginning of December 2020 for tabling in parliament.

According to the cabinet statement, the bill “proactively protects agricultural land for food production through the establishment of Protected Agricultural Areas in which high potential agricultural land will be delineated for agricultural purposes and low potential agricultural land will be permitted for non-agricultural uses”.

Cabinet also pointed out that the implementation of the proposed legislation addresses the threat to national and household food security.

In an earlier statement on the hearings in Limpopo, the committee’s acting chairperson, Dr Manketsi Tlhape, pointed out that the bill seeks to, among other things, entrench regulatory measures for the security of high potential agricultural land.

It also aims to promote a balanced approach to the use of agricultural land in South Africa.

“Currently we have an Act of 1970 called the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act, that prohibits some divisions of agricultural land without the consent of the Minister. This is an old Act; there has really been so much development since 1970”, she said.

“We have what we call cooperative governance where municipalities, provincial government and national government must work together. If you have to get consent from national government it means there is no cooperative. This Bill seeks to close all these gaps,” Dr Tlhape added.

In the latest statement, the committee points out that the bill aims to address Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act (SALA) shortcomings and other identified weaknesses.

SALA is currently administered only by the national agriculture, land reform and rural development department and, as such, “does not conform to the constitutional requirements of cooperative governance where national, provincial and local spheres of government have a role to play”.

“Furthermore, SALA is only applicable to privately owned land and thus, the department cannot protect high-value agricultural land owned by the state, statutory bodies, communal land and land administered by traditional authorities.”

Source: Sabinet