For nervous people and foreigners

2018-03-28 06:01

SOUTH Africa’s decision to begin a process to look at land expropriation without compensation comes with many caveats, and does not mean all white farmers will arbitrarily be stripped of their land and assets.

The issue has again come to the fore after Australia’s minister for immigration and border protection, Peter Dutton, reportedly said that his department is considering fast-tracking the visas of white SA farmers looking to emigrate to Australia, because the group deserves “special attention” owing to the “horrific circumstances” they face at home. He was referring to Parliament’s decision to review the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation, as well as concerns over a perceived spike in racial attacks on and murders of white farmers. But the decision to review the Constitution comes with clauses. This is what you need to know.

In December last year, when the ANC met for its national conference, it passed a resolution to begin a process of reviewing the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation.

The party, however, wants to expedite this process without it taking a toll on the economy, food security and agricultural production.

Last month, the EFF brought a draft resolution to Parliament to argue for an ad-hoc committee to be set up by the National Assembly to expedite the process. The party’s debate centred on the current land-reform programme, which it argued has been “fraught with difficulties” since its inception in 1994.

Land expropriation is a contested issue in the public discourse; on one hand it serves to address the injustices of the past and, on the other, it is an arguably populist move called to rally voters.

Many don’t believe land expropriation without compensation is the right move for SA. Some say the ANC’s resolution is not guided by fact or proper preparation. The agricultural sector is in two minds, with some organisations calling for clarity before taking sides.

A highly anticipated land audit report from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform found that black South Africans, who make up 79% of the population, only own 1,2% of the total rural land and seven percent of formal property in cities. But the report, which was released last year, did not make findings on agricultural land and its distribution.

However, AgriSA in its own land audit, found black citizens own 26,7% of agricultural ground and control more than 46% of SA’s agricultural potential.

The report found that white farmers’ ownership of agricultural ground declined from 85,1% in 1994 to 73,3% in 2016.

South Africa’s parliamentary constitutional review committee has been charged with reviewing Section 25 of the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation, and is expected to report back to the National Assembly by the end of August.

Section 25 states that property may be expropriated only for “a public purpose or in the public interest”, and “subject to just and equitable compensation” — the amount of which, and the time and manner of payment, must be agreed to by the affected, or decided by a court. What the amendment seeks to do, is remove the “subject to compensation” bit.

But what the ANC has not done, is develop a land-reform policy that considers “just and equitable compensation” from any standpoint other than the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle.

Several legal experts have pointed out that the two concepts are not the same.

Under the current Constitution, the ANC could still craft legislation with its own definition of “just and equitable compensation” that does not comply with “willing buyer, willing seller”.

If Section 25 is amended, there is still no guarantee that the state will make use of its expropriatory powers.

— HuffPost SA.

• Amil Umraw is the politics reporter at HuffPost SA.

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