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SA’s Expropriation Bill explained

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The Bill, once finalised, will be used in tandem with other land reform bills to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – The Expropriation Bill is one of the pieces of legislation to be used in the land reform programme.

It is aimed at giving the government powers to expropriate property in the public interest or for a public purpose.

The Bill was first tabled in 2008 by then public works minister Thoko Didiza but it was shelved for several years.

It has been tabled again in Parliament, and the portfolio committee on public works and infrastructure allowed for written submissions until the end of February.

The Bill, once finalised, will be used in tandem with other land reform bills after being passed by Parliament, including amendments to Section 25 of the Constitution, to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

The Bill will be used as a law of general application to expropriate land in line with the Constitution.

The background

South Africa’s land troubles can be traced directly to the 1913 Natives Land Act which allowed for the forcible removal of thousands of black families from their land by the apartheid government and limiting land ownership by black people to 7%.

The 1936 Native Trust and Land Act of South Africa later amended the ownership quota to 13% but restricted black people from buying or occupying land. This law also paved the way for the wholesale relocation of black families to homelands and townships.

The Land Act was repealed when the Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act 1991 came into effect.

With the abolition of apartheid, a concerted effort was made by the government to restore the rights of dispossessed land owners, upgrade the rights of citizens with insecure land tenure and transform land ownership patterns shaped by racial bias.

The Constitutional Court approved South Africa’s new Constitution on December 4, 1994, and Section 25 states that:

1. No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.

2. Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application: ­

a. for a public purpose or in the public interest; and

b. subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court.

The Constitution contains three clauses aimed at redressing the legacy of apartheid-era land ownership:

* A person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to restitution of that property, or to equitable redress.

* The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis.

* A person or community whose tenure of land is legally insecure as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to tenure which is legally secure, or to comparable redress.

What happens next

To date, around 2.1 million beneficiaries have already benefited to the tune of R40 billion from 80 664 successful land claims.

The government has vowed to continue to accelerate the pace of land reform in order to give more South Africans assets and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

Political Bureau and IOL