Land taken 'by the barrel of a gun' should be valued at R0, Parly committee hears

2018-10-26 20:28
Land reform. (Photo: iStock)

Land reform. (Photo: iStock)

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The Christian Bible's Ten Commandments were invoked at Friday's public submissions to Parliament's Constitutional Review Committee on how and whether land should be expropriated without compensation. 

"You did mention this commandment: 'Thou shall not steal'," EFF member of the National Council of Provinces Tebogo Mokwele asked Brian Musto, after his submission to the committee. 

"Who stole from who in this instance?" Mokwele demanded, drawing on one of the 10 fundamental principles of Christianity.

"According to my knowledge, the land was stolen from the blacks," Mokwele said, the microphone lights flashing red around the Old Assembly Chamber as committee members tried to raise points of order against her.  

"According to our ancestral information, that land has been taken and a Bible was given to us," Mokwele continued, before she sank back into her seat and watched, arms folded. 

The submission by the FW de Klerk Foundation, by representatives Zohra Dawood and Theuns Eloff, made her see the red of her overall top.

The foundation's submissions advocated the formation of a special purpose vehicle led by somebody with integrity and respect, and with the power to cut through red tape and connect departments on land and development policy. 

READ: Land: De Doorns protests a 'litmus test' for what could come, MPs told

But for Mokwele, the foundation, named after the last apartheid head of state, represented people "who murdered our people". 

"I can't allow the mobs of 1652 to determine our fate," Mokwela said to the chagrin of DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach, who objected to her comments. 

Co-chairpersons Lewis Nzimande and Stan Maila circled back to the presentations, reminding members of the committee that they were there to listen and ask questions, not to debate.

Part of Musto's submission had been that the current land claims process had already settled matters for 1.8m people and only 3 500 cases were still unresolved. This approach indicated a level of success to him.

He said farms have become increasingly larger and commercialised, with fewer individual farm owners.

However, because farmers are becoming nervous that their employees will eventually claim their farms, they are reducing staff. These jobless people are flocking to towns and cities for jobs and the sudden added numbers of people are overwhelming the municipalities.

The Association for Rural Advancement believes the security of tenure of farm workers is the perfect subject for a test case on Section 25 to be made to the Constitutional Court.

It argues that farm workers already live in houses that generate no income for the farm owner. They use the land around them and contribute to it.

Transferring those specific residential plots to the farm workers without compensation would be no loss to the farm owner and it would bring security to everybody.

On Thursday the committee heard that there should be a moratorium on evictions from farms until the legislative process relating to expropriation without compensation is completed. 

The oral submissions follow a motion tabled in Parliament by the EFF that amending the Constitution should be considered to establish whether land should be expropriated without compensation.

READ: National Assembly adopts motion on land expropriation without compensation 

The association also urged that the terms "land" and "property" be clearly defined because property could also be applied to personal items like jewellery, for example.

If market value was to be a determining factor if compensation was agreed on eventually, a sliding scale on the value of land, based on its history, could also be implemented ranging from full, to partial, to no compensation.

Where there was land that was indeed stolen, its value could be adjusted to R0.

Mark Oppenheimer, representing the Johannesburg Attorney's Association, said South Africa must steer clear of basing the debate on expropriating land without compensation to "levels of melanin in our skin", because that in itself is unconstitutional. 

He said many of South Africa's residents had fled from other countries, such as Nazi-occupied German, with only the clothes they were wearing. 

Mokwele pressed the button to activate her microphone again and said: "But none of those people brought land with them." 

Oppenheimer said research has shown that people place unemployment at the top of their lists of concerns, and that 92% of successful land claimants opted to take the cash for their own needs.

Not everybody wanted to farm, so the money was used for either settling debts or to pursue other personal goals.

The association also advocated compensation based on the history of ownership of a plot of land, and that the property's own financial status be taken into consideration.

He cited Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba's bid for the City to take over neglected and rundown buildings to be refurbished.

In this case, the arrears on utilities that should have been paid to the government could be offset with the value of the building to justify paying a lowered price when expropriating it, Oppenheimer suggested.

However, land taken "by the barrel of a gun" should be valued at R0, he said.

Oppenheimer also warned of the potential to use a change of law as a weapon of punishment, and the risk of becoming a pariah state by violating international law. 

"The law has been used to take land for a long time. We need to say never again use law for the purpose of injustice." 

Ann Bernstein of the Centre for Development Enterprise pressed home a submission that unused City, land owned by state-owned entities, could be used to accommodate people who are part of a massive migration to suburban areas in cities. They could be integrated into city life on unused Transnet land instead of perpetuating apartheid cities with separate areas.

The migrations led to greater density in cities and the creation of landlord entrepreneurs, but there seemed to be no thought over how to handle this or plan for it.

"We should think less about land, and more about where people can have a place to stay," she said.

The committee will is expected to mull the submissions and is expected to meet next week to discuss them.

Read more on:    land expropriation  |  land hearings  |  land

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