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Have your say on expropriation of land without compensation bill- South Africa

The Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill which seeks to amend section 25 of the constitution to provide for expropriation of land without compensation will be gazetted next week for public comment.

After much toing and froing in a meeting on Thursday, the ad hoc committee established to draft the constitutional amendment agreed to gazette the bill so that the public could submit comments on the proposed law.

The purpose of the bill is to amend section 25 of the constitution so as to provide that the right to property may be limited in such a way that where land is expropriated for land reform, the amount of compensation payable may be nil.

Further, it aims to clarify that such limitation is a legitimate option for land reform, to address historic wrongs caused by the arbitrary dispossession of land, and in so doing ensure equitable access to land and further empower the majority of South Africans to be productive participants in ownership, food security and agricultural reform programmes.

Section 25 (2) (b) says property may be expropriated only in terms of the law of general application 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.
 
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The committee has added this line: “Provided that in accordance with subsection (3A) a court may, where land and any improvements thereon are expropriated for the purposes of land reform, determine that the amount of compensation is nil.’’

Another proposed clause reads: “National legislation must ... set out specific circumstances where a court may determine that the amount of compensation is nil.”

But parties opposed to the amendments called for the specific circumstances in which expropriation of land would be without compensation to be set out in the constitution and not in a general law of application as proposed by the bill.

“We would like to see those specific circumstances being spelt out in the amendment. And we would suggest that those circumstances could be land occupied or used by labour tenants, land held for purely speculative purposes, land held by state-owned enterprises, land abandoned by its owner, land worth less than any state subsidy it may attract, other state-owned land and communal land held by a chief and a clause giving discretion to the courts to consider other categories on their merits,” said DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach.

Opposition MPs said it was important to state in the constitution the circumstances under which compensation could be nil, saying this was not the kind of subject matter that could be left to legislation of general application.

They also expressed concern that the parliamentary process was being steam-rolled, with the DA's Annelie Lotriet warning that “time is trumping the rights of property owners in the country at this point”.

She said there was no reason not to delay the process so that the committee could have a proper public participation, adding that they were not in favour of the process being rushed.

Committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga tacitly admitted that the process was being rushed because of fears that the public would lose patience with a delayed process.

“We don't want a situation where the public writes us off and take the process into their hands because the leadership of this country, starting with Nelson Mandela, said that we are going to have a peaceful resolution of this question.

“We are trying to deal with these matters on time before the public loses confidence in our ability to deal with the matter,” he said.

The ad hoc committee has until March 31 to conclude its process.

The public will have until January 31 to submit comments.


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