Former ConCourt judge speaks frankly about land, property ownership and how equal is SA really

Former Constitutional Court justice Zak Yacoob. (Pic: Carin Smith, Fin24)
Former Constitutional Court justice Zak Yacoob. (Pic: Carin Smith, Fin24)

Durban – The government should set out its plan for land reform and property ownership goals in very concrete terms and be real about how to achieve it, former Constitutional Court justice Zak Yacoob said on Wednesday.

He was one of the architects of the SA Constitution and the opening speaker at the annual SA Property Owners’ Association (Sapoa) conference in Durban.

“If the government had said in 1994 that each year it will reconstruct just 4% of its land reconstruction goals, the process would have been about 88% complete by now already,” he said in answer to a question.

“Government must be clear about the sort of land transfers it wants from whom and to whom, how it will be funded and over what period,” he said.

“Government must stop just going for white papers and theories and big shout outs when doing one or two big transfers. Property has a value for people because of what they can do with it to better their lives. Government must ensure that more and more African people own land and use it for the right purpose like farming. Mineral rights could also be more fairly applied.”

Yacoob said the SA Constitution envisages a future where property laws work to the advantage of all the people in the country. He said they negotiated for nine days to establish the property clause in the Constitution.

He explained that the plan was that taxpayers would ultimately fund property reconstitution through government buying properties.

“We supposed a move away from the old system where people were supposed to have been paid market value for property that was expropriated, to just and equitable compensation as determined by the court and taking various factors into account,” said Yacoob.

“Being a country with fair labour practices, good property laws and housing is essential for the development of property rights. We cannot say anymore that property owners benefit due to an increase in value of their property and nothing else. We need a social revolution where the hearts and minds of people are changed,” he said.

“Our Constitution states no discrimination, yet there is a disconnect between this value of equality and society as it really is. Our constitution says we are all equal, yet many still think they are superior. Indians think they are superior, African people think negatively about Indian people, light skin Indian people think they are better than darker skin Indian people, lighter skin, straight hair coloured people think they are better than darker skinned coloured people. Confronting this truth is the first step.”

He said the property issue is complicated and all South Africans have to work together to create a society which is fair, just and equal. Then it will be beneficial to all property owners in the country.

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