GUGILE Nkwinti, minister of rural development and land reform, on Thursday spelled out the government's 2014 land-reform target at Parliament to dispel "confusion" around the figures.

The media briefing at Parliament, by ministers from the government's economic sectors and employment cluster, followed President Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address last month during which he said the pace of land redistribution was "slow and tedious".

Mr Nkwinti said there were 82-million hectares of agricultural land in South Africa "presumed to be in the hands of white commercial farmers". The government aims to transfer 30% of this land, a total of 24,5-million hectares, to black farmers by 2014.

When Mr Zuma had referred in his address to a figure of only 8,2% of this land having been transferred to date, he was talking about 8,2% of the 82-million hectares.

To date, 6,7-million hectares of land have been transferred, including via redistribution and restitution.

When the government spoke of getting 30% of land transferred, it meant 30% of 82-million hectares, which was 24,5-million hectares.

"Often, we say 30% by 2014 without specifying what we're talking about. That's really (what is causing) the confusion around this," Mr Nkwinti said.

On land claims, he said: "We have 8770 land claims that we are working on right now, that are outstanding."

Land-claim commissioners have already examined records in seven of South Africa's nine provinces. "Of the nine provinces, we've finished seven, and we've got 6000 (claims), based on scanning-in and manually counting," he said. "We're moving towards certainty now ... we're much closer to the real figure now, close to the 8770 figure, and will complete the process at the end of this month."

On completing a land audit - which many believe to be an essential basis from which to tackle land reform - he said the audit now under way would identify only state and public-owned land, and would be completed by June this year.

"We have a team of 228 people working on the land audit," the minister said. "By the end of June, we could be somewhere ... I think they've done (so far) about five or so provinces."

This audit will, however, not reveal the extent of private transactions involving the sale of white-owned land to blacks, which will take much longer to determine.

"There is a question about how much land is in the hands of the state in the form of communal areas and other forms," Mr Nkwinti said. "And, therefore, about how much land still needs to be transferred from the 82-million hectares of land in the hands of white commercial farmers.

"When we say audit of land, we mean state and public land, because there's no register now ... that's the purpose of this audit. But having done that, it will not tell you how much land transacts between persons in the private market, and therefore you could then add that to the (amount of) land that is transferred between white commercial farmers to black people in terms of the 82-million hectares of agricultural land in the country."

To identify who owns what land requires further work.

"To identify the ownership of land, we need ... to disaggregate it," he said. "Of the land that is transacted in the country, within and outside the state, how many of them (the transactions) are black? For us to get this information, we have to work and collaborate with (the Department of Home Affairs). That project has started."

It will also be necessary to work with the Department of Trade and Industry, to identify land owned by companies, and with the Master of the High Court, to determine how much land is held by trusts.

"We are forced to do this if we have to answer the question: how much land is really transacted, within and outside the state context?" Mr Nkwinti said. "But right now we're auditing the land in terms of state and public ownership. Because when we start moving into that disaggregation by race ... all of those things ... we've got a long way to go."

Responding to another question at the briefing, Mr Nkwinti said the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle was not the "worst impediment" to land reform.

"The worst impediment is ... if land is sold to the state (as opposed to a private sale), the price kicks up immediately," he said. "This is a problem because the state is not a willing buyer. It's a compelled buyer ... That's why we have to deal with it."

SAPA