A for sale sign in a farm on Polkadraai road in Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch has seen a rise in land, farms and properties for sale after the land expropriation debate was ramped up in the public sphere. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
A for sale sign in a farm on Polkadraai road in Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch has seen a rise in land, farms and properties for sale after the land expropriation debate was ramped up in the public sphere. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Expropriation bill allows for seizure of land used merely for investment purposes

By ANA Reporter Time of article published Oct 12, 2020

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Cape Town - The government has published the long-awaited Expropriation Bill that is meant to repeal existing apartheid era legislation and determine when land can be expropriation without compensation.

The bill will amend the conditions under which the state can lay claim to land in the public interest, and marks a shift from the narrow focus of the Expropriation Act of 1975 on the market value of expropriated land and the actual loss to the owner.

Clause 12 of the bill stipulates that it may be just and equitable to offer nil compensation for private land if it is abandoned or used merely as a market investment, and not for development and income generation.

Similarly, state land can be expropriated if it is not used by a state entity in line with its core mandate.

In terms of the bill, land can also be seized if the actual market value of it is the same or less than the value of a state subsidy in regard to it.

And it can be expropriated for land reform purposes where a court or arbitrator determined that in the particular instance, "it may be just and equitable for nil compensation to be paid".

Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille on Sunday told a media briefing the bill had been certified as constitutional by the state law advisor, and that the existing act was unconstitutional.

Replacing it with post-apartheid legislation was therefore long overdue, she said. The current law is seen as protecting property rights acquired during the colonial and apartheid eras, and the bill crucially allows for compensation for those with unregistered rights to a property when it is expropriated by the state.

The bill has been through various drafts and follows court cases on expropriation where judges have grappled with disputes on aspects of compensation, including the timing thereof, in the absence of clear direction from the Constitution.

De Lille stressed that the bill was part of an overhaul of legislation pertaining to land, and that it must be read alongside the parliamentary process to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to make explicit the circumstances under which land could be expropriated without compensation.

The current reading of the section has been viewed as an impediment to land reform and redressing the ownership patterns of the past.

But critics of a constitutional amendment have argued that the need for one would fall away if the Expropriation Bill was to be adopted.

The measure was gazetted on Friday and will now be processed by Parliament.

A key aspect of the thinking around the bill is that it can be used to obtain land for development purposes and hence speed up the reversal of the spatial legacy of white minority rule.

African News Agency (ANA)

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