LREAD Perspective: Expropriation without compensation

LREAD Perspective: Expropriation without compensation

Land expropriation without compensation is on everyone’s lips, since the EFF and the ANC proposed a Parliamentary Motion that could see the Constitution modified to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. What does this mean for those affected?

One would be naïve not to see the political machinations behind the motion: A partnership between the ANC and EFF could benefit the ANC, especially in the metro areas governed by DA led coalitions, in partnership with the EFF. The EFF has warned that its support for the DA would be re-evaluated based on the party’s approach to the expropriation debate, while the DA has made it clear it does not support expropriation without compensation.

Of importance is also the fact that the ANC and EFF are not in agreement on the desired outcome of the motion: The EFF seeks a sweeping type of historic justice. It is argued that it is not necessary to now pay for something which was stolen in the first place. In an EFF utopia, the state owns all the land in the country. This includes the land on which your farm, house, shop and factory is built.

On the other hand, if one listens carefully to President Ramaphosa, the ANC’s support for the motion is focussed on agricultural land, and then with crucial conditions attached. Expropriation without compensation is applicable only if:

  • It does not harm the agricultural sector;
  • It does not harm the economy;
  • It does not threaten agricultural production.

The motion must now be discussed by Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee to report back on the 30th of August 2018. So how have role-players reacted to this motion?

  • The main political opposition to the bill, led by the DA, stated that expropriation without compensation does not provide black South Africans with title deeds to land, thus failing to unlock the wealth generating possibilities of land ownership. The Freedom Front warned against the unintended consequences this process might unleash.
  • AgriSA warned about the consequences of the policy uncertainty this motion will bring. The association argues that private ownership is a basic human right protected and recognised internationally. In most modern jurisdictions, land owners have a constitutional right to compensation.
  • Banks have been very cautious in their response to date. The Banking Association stated it will continue to work with Government to find solutions to land transformation.
  • Ben Cousins, well-known academic and land reform researcher, said the most important question facing land reform is how it can contribute to increasing employment, incomes and livelihoods among the 55% of the population who live beneath the poverty line. According to him, it is also clear that land symbolises the wide discontent over the slow rate of change in post-apartheid South Africa.
  • Agricultural Business Chamber CEO Dr John Purchase said “The open and competitive South African agro-food system, and by implication the excellent national food security we as a country experience, is fundamentally based on secure property rights to leverage financing for investment and production”.
  • According to Dr Anthea Jeffery, head of Policy Research at the Institute for Race Relations, opinion polls from 2015 to 2017 have shown that the great majority of black South Africans have little interest in land reform. “In the IRR’s 2016 field survey, for instance, only 1% of black respondents (down from 2% the previous year) said that ‘more land reform’ was the ‘best way to improve lives’. By contrast, 73% of black people saw ‘more jobs and better education’ as the ‘best way’ for them to get ahead”.

Without any doubt there will be many more opinions and arguments for and against expropriation with or without compensation as we head towards our next national elections in 2019. May our leaders have the required wisdom and maturity to guide this debate with the long-term wellbeing of our beloved country always at the front of mind.

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