A presidential panel set up to investigate South Africa’s land reform plans has given the policy of expropriation without compensation the green light, but has attached strict conditions to it.
The report, seen by the City Press, said land expropriation cannot collapse or offend the values of the country’s constitution, and any change to the constitution needs to take that into account.
Specifically, the constitutional change should indicate that parliament should enact legislation that outlines the specific conditions in which ‘equitable compensation’ should not be paid.
This, rather than a change that gives government free-rein to expropriate land without any conditions.
Other conditions in the report include:
- A proposed cap on the total land an individual or company can own;
- Possible land taxes to disincentivise people form holding land unproductively;
- Appointing a land rights protector to combat corruption related to land reform;
- Encouraging churches, mines and other entities to give up land voluntarily; and
- Taking land reform out of the current ministry and putting it within the presidency to better centralise the process.
Changing the constitution
A Constitutional Review Committee recommended in 2018 that the constitution be changed to make land expropriation without compensation explicit in section 25.
The report recommended that parliament amends section 25 of the Constitution to make explicit that which is implicit in the Constitution, regarding expropriation of land without compensation, as a legitimate option for land reform, to address the historic wrongs caused by arbitrary dispossession of land.
In so doing, this would ensure equitable access to land and further empower the majority of South Africans to be productive participants in ownership, food security and agricultural reform programs, the committee said.
It recommended that an ad hoc committee be established to handle this.
This week, the National Assembly agreed to establish a multiparty committee to introduce legislation amending section 25 of the constitution.
This is the next major step in the government’s push to allow for land expropriation without compensation.
The new committee will report back to the National Assembly by 31 March 2020.
When expropriation without compensation can happen
The latest Expropriation Bill that is being considered by parliament already lists some of the conditions for land expropriation without compensation. This includes:
- Where land is occupied or used by a labour tenant;
- Where land is held for speculative purposes;
- Where land is state-owned or owned by a state-owned entity;
- Where the owner has abandoned the land; and
- Where the market value of the land is equivalent to or less than the present value of direct state investment or subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the land.