Government should not be given unfettered powers to expropriate land without compensation, various experts told parliament’s constitutional review committee today.
The committee is looking into the viability of amending section 25 of the constitution, which deals with property rights and was holding a colloquium on a parliamentary resolution to expropriate land without compensation as a result of the slow pace of land reform in South Africa.
Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies’ Professor Ruth Hall told MPs the current system of land redistribution and restitution was not transparent.
“This is a system set up for corruption and patronage,” she said.
Hall proposed a new expropriation bill to bring the law in line with the constitution and alongside this a redistribution bill to ensure the rights of citizens.
Hall said despite laws which prevented land dispossession, almost a million black South Africans were forcibly removed from land since 1994.
“The rate of forced land dispossession of poor black people of the land actually accelerated in the first 10 years of democracy,” she said.
Land restitution was further hampered by weak institutions set up to implement laws, Hall said.
Dr Annika Claassens from the Land and Accountabiltity Research Centre agreed, saying two questions were central to the land debate: “Can we trust the executive with more powers and are our institutions up to scratch.”
She suggested new laws should ensure that citizens can hold government accountable.
“Where it expropriates land, it must give effect to positive rights in the constitution otherwise we would never address the spatial inequality,” said Claassens.
Claassens said despite the reservations about how it would be implemented, land expropriation without compensation was necessary for equitable redistribution of land.
“I think that expropriation without compensation is not only possible but necessary when we speak about people having countervailing rights.”
Dan Kriek of AgriSA, one of the biggest critics of the proposed land expropriation without compensation, said the move would affect food security and financing for commercial farmers.
Kriek suggested partnerships between black and white farmers was a better solution.
“We don’t believe the constitution needs to be changed. We need to deal with real impediments to land reform. We are a willing and able partner…there is a deficit of trust we need to work on.”
While the Banking Association of SA had yet to adopt a formal position, it sent Pierre Venter to brief MPs. Venter said he was of the view a constitutional amendment was not needed. He said there was already enough legal room for land redistribution and restitution in South Africa but it had been hamstrung by “politics, patronage, corruption, and government paralysis”.
Venter said they were not opposed to redress through land redistribution but wanted it done in a manner which did not hurt banks and investor confidence.
“We do however believe it must happen in an orderly manner. If it doesn’t, it undermines the security of loans for property.”
– African News Agency (ANA)