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  • Pam Saxby

LAND EXPROPRIATION WITHOUT COMPENSATION: UPDATE

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

As the owner of Legalbrief, Juta Law holds the copyright to this article, which was published in Legalbrief Today on 27 October 2020, under Policy Watch

As provincial public hearings on the wording of the draft Constitution 18th Amendment Bill draw to a close, media statements issued by the ad hoc parliamentary committee concerned tend to suggest that the opportunity to comment on the content and format of the legislation envisaged has been used by most participants to reiterate long-standing grievances stemming from past injustices. According to last week’s press release on hearings in Limpopo’s Sekhukhune district, there is a widespread perception that land expropriation without compensation will automatically solve SA’s myriad socio-economic challenges and should not be ‘delayed’ any further. Similar sentiments are expressed in a statement summarising input during hearings in the Northern Cape, where participants apparently called for the ‘process of amending section 25 of the Constitution’ to be ‘fast-tracked’.

During a recent question-and-answer session in the NCOP, Deputy President David Mabuza reportedly told the House that the ‘expropriation of property with nil compensation is not a silver bullet’ (SAnews). He appears to have made this observation in the context of the newly tabled revised Expropriation Bill, reminding members that expropriation without compensation will be ‘but one acquisition mechanism’ for ‘enabl(ing) land reform and redress’ in ‘appropriate cases’. Nevertheless, once in force, the Deputy President believes the Bill will at least ‘bring certainty’ to ‘South Africans and investors’ alike on ‘how expropriation can be done and on what basis’.

Yet the flurry of ad hoc committee draft Constitution 18th Amendment Bill public hearings statements makes no direct reference to the Expropriation Bill or its relevance to the process of addressing landlessness. While the wording in a press release on hearings in Vhembe district, Limpopo province, notes the importance of ‘just and equitable compensation in line with the law of general application’, it does so in a context that is worryingly fudged. The statement on the Sekhukhune district session notes calls for ‘equal redistribution’ and state ‘custodianship’ – and one on hearings in Upington refers to residents being ‘united in their call for the settlement of … outstanding land claims’.

Sunday’s session in Polokwane having been cancelled because of crowd control challenges, at the time of writing an announcement on alternative arrangements had yet to be made. Otherwise, the programme is scheduled to end this month with hearings in the Western Cape. Sessions held before the Covid-19 State of Disaster yielded similar results – at least according to committee statements issued at the time. It remains to be seen how members of the committee dovetail what has been communicated orally into the process of considering written submissions received in response to the call made last December for stakeholder input. At this stage, it is not clear if more parliamentary hearings are planned. The Bill is expected to be formally introduced in the National Assembly before the end of the year.

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