Recipe for disaster

2008-07-07 00:00

As an experienced and well-informed advocate of the land rights of dispossessed people, Mary de Haas has credentials that lend solid weight to her critique of the proposed Expropriation Bill. Her criticism is comprehensive and incisive. The measures are too broad-reaching and too vaguely defined. They assign powers to the executive that are neither transparent nor democratic. Far from redressing past wrongs and enabling the fair and equitable redistribution of land, the Bill in its present form will exacerbate existing problems and tensions, allow corrupt opportunists to make illegitimate claims, encourage land invasions and spark a right-wing reaction to them, and have “potentially disastrous” consequences for race relations, human rights and the stability of the country.

The threat of unnecessary and unjustified expropriations is a nightmare not just for legitimate land owners but for all South Africans. There is a clear link between the abuse of land tenure and the problems plaguing Zimbabwe. This government already has the mechanisms it needs to achieve a resolution of the land problem. Rather than toy with ill-considered new measures, it needs to sort out its own department and employ civil servants who are competent, efficient, reliable and honest.

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