South Africa risks going down the same road as Zimbabwe with property change warns Western Cape government

The Western Cape provincial government will formally oppose the Draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill allowing for land expropriation, citing concerns around property rights and the economic damage the policy will cause.

The bill seeks to amend the Constitution to expressly allow for expropriation without compensation in South Africa. It succeeds a previous version of the amendment bill that was published in 2019 for public comment.

“We have, from the outset, opposed expropriation without compensation,” the Western Cape government said in a statement on Tuesday (24 August). “The right to property is an important right that cannot be done away with. The current amendment bill is also not only confusing and ambiguous but, on one possible reading, also seeks to exclude the important and constitutional role that courts should play in determining the amount of compensation paid.”

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said that the bill also aims to further centralise power to the state by introducing the concept of ‘state custodianship’.

In a country impacted severely by corruption and maladministration, further centralising powers to that level of government would be detrimental, he said.

A road to Zimbabwe 

One of the key concerns raised relates to the economic impact expropriation without compensation will have. “The introduction of expropriation without compensation threatens to undermine the property rights of those who were previously disadvantaged and who have worked tirelessly to own their property,” the Western Cape government said.

“This policy will not address the slow pace of land reform and is unlikely to improve the livelihoods of those previously disadvantaged.”

It cited data where similar policies were implemented in Portugal, Spain, Romania, Vietnam, Venezuela, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe, where those countries experienced a 13.9% decline in their GDP which led to higher interest rates and public debt, reducing service delivery.

This further demonstrates that the policy will likely worsen the livelihoods of those previously disadvantaged, it said.

“It is well established that land distribution in South Africa is skewed and that this threatens to destabilise our society,” said the Western Cape’s minister of agriculture Ivan Meyer.

However, he said it is not the existing policy that has failed to create meaningful land reform but rather a lack of political will, poor implementation, corruption, and insufficient resources.

“The amendment bill or proposed national legislation will not create meaningful land reform but rather risk exposing us to unintended spillover consequences.”

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South Africa risks going down the same road as Zimbabwe with property change warns Western Cape government