People inhabiting communal land should be given title deeds, not permitted to occupy the land, Deputy President David Mabuza told the National Council of Provinces on Thursday.
He was answering questions when the matter was raised in two separate questions.
In a follow-up question to an original question about the government's land reform programmes, IFP MP from KwaZulu-Natal Mntomuhle Khawula asked if Mabuza could allay fears that all those land reform plans have nothing to do with the Ingonyama Trust.
The Ingonyama Trust administers the land traditionally owned by the Zulu people, and the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, is the sole trustee.
Mabuza said: "I don't think there should be any fears."
He added that traditional leaders were custodians of communal land.
"Instead of giving community members permission to occupy, give him a title deed," Mabuza said.
"Why refuse to give them a title deed, because they're the rightful owners."
He added that, if people don't get title deeds, the "owner of the land becomes poor".
He said this system was flawed and it had become a "hot potato" for traditional leaders.
"I don't think communal land, the way it is now, under custodianship of traditional leaders, is a problem, as long as the community get title deeds."
DA MP from the Western Cape Cathy Labuschagne asked what steps the government would take to provide direct ownership of land to communal residents who had insecure rights.
"The honourable member should remember that communal land refers to land inhabited by African communities in former homelands, which according to apartheid laws, could not be registered in the South African native's name and continues to be held by the state in the democratic era," Mabuza said.
"Let me restate that land in traditional communities belongs to the people."
He said the objective of the Communal Land Bill was to "clarify in detail how security of tenure is addressed and to remove any confusion around land ownership and use as prescribed under customary law".
"However, there has been a distortion of customary law that at times affect security of tenure of people living in communal land. To address this, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has published the Communal Land Tenure Bill for public comment. "
He said the bill provided for the transfer of ownership of communal land to communities that occupied such land. It further provided for the transfer of ownership of residential portions that were currently occupied by community members to such community members.
"It is therefore envisaged under this bill that communities will have tittle deeds for their communal land, and members of communities will have title deeds for their residential and business portions."
The process of public comments has been concluded and comments are being considered by the department.
"It would thus be premature to speculate on the outcomes this process," he said.