The ANC is proposing a new amendment to land expropriation without compensation that will see decision-making shift from the country’s courts to a central ‘land tsar’.
The Sunday Times reports that the amendment will effectively remove the courts as the ‘decider’ on whether or not the state will pay for land it expropriates and will instead give that power to the minister of land reform.
The proposed amendment was reportedly adopted by the party at its National Executive Committee (NEC) lekgotla earlier this month and is expected to be voted on by ANC MPs in parliament in the coming weeks.
The current bill on land expropriation without compensation – which is open for public comment – states that the courts should be the arbiter when determining whether the state should pay for expropriated land.
However, the ANC’s Mathole Motshekga, who is leading an ad hoc committee on land reform, said that if the courts are to determine compensation “it will take another 25 or 50 years to sort out land reform”.
He further warned that if this new proposal was not followed it could lead to land grabs such as those seen in Zimbabwe.
“Landowners who have seen the example of Zimbabwe should be more supportive of this process because you don’t want groups of people invading the land.
“This is an orderly process. If they don’t support this they are opening themselves up to the law of the jungle. We don’t want a banana republic and we don’t want the law of the jungle,” he said.
Speaking in an interview on Thursday (23 January), Motshekga said the current bill was worded as it is to avoid controversy, and to allow the proposed amendment to be gazetted. Doing it any other way would have derailed the process, he said.
When asked if the ANC government was being “sneaky” in gazetting a proposed amendment that fully intended on changing in the future, Motshekga did not respond, only saying that the courts would take too long to make a decision.
“We have the experience that the court processes are arduous. They take time, they require resources,” Motshekhga said.
“But the executive is a democratic government, elected by the people of South Africa, they represent the people of South Africa and they must govern.”
Motshekga added that no extension would be given for submissions to comment on the bill, which was published in December, ahead of the holidays.
The DA has previously criticised the bill, saying that it is unclear how it defines land (appearing to include property – which has a different legal definition – in with its claims), while also bypassing requirements for a two-third majority vote by putting the powers over land expropriation in separate legislation, outside of the Constitutional amendment.
The party called the publishing of the bill and the truncated comment period because of the holidays, an attempt by the ANC to rush through the changes.
Submissions for comment close at the end of January 2020.