Property owners call for land reform without losing economic stability

Cape Town - The historical background of land ownership in South Africa needs to be addressed, but it is critical to ensure that the imbalance is dealt with while the economic stability of the country continues to be reinforced.

This is the view expressed by the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) on Thursday. SAPOA represents commercial and industrial property owners.

A resolution was taken in Parliament on Tuesday about the expropriation of land without compensation. The National Assembly adopted a motion proposed by the Economic Freedom Fighters and with amendments by the African National Congress for a committee to review section 25 of the Constitution. This section concerns the right of property ownership.

“SAPOA supports a land expropriation process where the rights of present and future landowners are balanced, with the need to ensure stability and economic growth,” SAPOA CEO Neil Gopal said in a statement.

SAPOA is particularly concerned about the potential impact of the resolution on food security, agricultural production and the economy.

“Key challenges facing SA are extremely high levels of unemployment, structural poverty and inequality, and the question we need to address is how we resolve these critical issues through the process of land reform," said Gopal.

“There is no doubt that we need to urgently reverse the racial inequalities in land resulting from our colonial past and the violent dispossession of indigenous people off their land. But we need more clarity and debate on the factors responsible for the slow pace of land reform, and we welcome engagement with The Constitutional Review Committee on these matters.”

He said SAPOA understands that SA cannot afford to protect private property with such zeal that it entrenches privilege, creates further inequality and entrenches poverty.

"This is a recipe for instability. The guarantee of private ownership to ensure investment, in tandem with addressing the ills of the past, is fundamental to a stable democracy,” said Gopal.

"South Africa must be a nation that recognises a need for land reform and that accepts that such must be done being cognisant of property rights and a need for a thriving and competitive economy."

He pointed out that there will be a public participation process in the Constitutional Review Committee's work. It is expected to report back on proposed changes to Section 25 of the Constitution by August 30 2018.

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