Palriament – The controversial Expropriation Bill, which sets out the legislative requirements for the State to lay claim to land, was passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday.
While the biggest opposition parties rejected the bill, it was pushed through by the ruling African National Congress (ANA) with 202 votes in favour of the vote, 88 against, with two abstentions.
The Democratic Alliance opposed the bill, denouncing, among others, the definition of “property” in the bill as not being limited to land only.
DA MP Anchen Dreyer said this meant it was “wide open to interpretation” and could mean that intellectual property, taxi fleets, cattle and other movable property could be expropriated.
She added it could have a detrimental effect on the economy.
“It is essential that all citizens know that their property rights are secure,” said Dreyer.
“Moreover it is crucial for foreign investment that property rights are secure. Without this knowledge South Africa will no longer remain a desirable destination for foreign investment.”
As expected, the Economic Freedom Fighters also rejected the bill, but for different reasons. It wants “expropriation without compensation”.
“The EFF calls for the total expropriation of South African land without compensation so we can restore the dignity of our people because as long as our people remain landless, we remain a conquered nation by the white people and their handlers which is white monopoly capital,” said the party’s Marshall Dlamini.
The IFP supported the bill, calling it “long overdue”, but the United Democratic Movement objected to the bill on the grounds that while land could be expropriated for restitution purposes, those who were dispossessed of their land prior to the 1913 Land Act would not benefit.
Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald labelled the bill “bad news for land owners in the country”.
“It is a precursor to land grabs being done legally,” said Groenewald.
Deputy Public Works Minister Jeremy Cronin dismissed the fears of opposition parties, saying the bill was both administratively fair to land owners, and protected the State from having to pay “extortionate amounts of money” to effect land restitution.
Cronin said legislators had for over 20 years failed to develop a law of general application which was in keeping with the Constitution.
“The absence of such a law of general application has been unfair to the public. It’s been unfair to investors,” he said.
“It’s been unfair to the judiciary which is often being called on to pronounce on cases of expropriation without clear legislative guidance, and its absence is also unfair to the expropriating authority.”
The Expropriation Bill sets out the rules by which the government can lay claim to land “in the public interest” and “for public purpose”.
While land owners would be paid compensation, the State would not merely rely on “market value” to determine the rand amount to be paid.
Other criteria include the “history of the acquisition”, “the current use of the property”, and “the purpose of expropriation”.
Land owners would also be able to approach the courts should they not be happy with the compensation paid.