New Land Grab Law

Land restitution in South Africa is a political football. Government is under from opposition parties and critics at the slow pace of land reform. The EFF got parliamentary seats mainly on a land reform ticket.

Many past wrongs of the apartheid legacy need to be redressed. People who have been dispossessed unjustly of their land require restitution. The housing backlog is a national crisis of epidemic proportions. Homelessness has diminished many ordinary South Africans to shack dwellers and backyarders – pawns of politics’ vain promise.

Previously disadvantaged people need access to land, finance to buy property and jobs to maintain the properties.

But the ANC government does not have the interest of the majority at heart with the passing of the new land grab law. All they care about is enrichment of an elite few.

Violating the Constitution

As of 1 August 2015 the Property Valuation Act of 2014 became law. The main aim of the act is to effectively void the common law ‘willing buyer/willing seller’ principle when it comes to land reform. But this new legislation is problematic and flawed in many aspects.

Firstly, this legislation violates the basic constitutional right by placing at risk and / or threatening the property ownership rights of all property owners – whether you own land or other property. In terms of this new law, property rights can be challenged and revoked, and the property in question can be expropriated, at the sole discretion of a “valuer-general’.

Valuer-general’s powers

Secondly, the new legislation makes provision for the appointment by the president or his minister of a ‘valuer-general’.

The valuer-general has powers to determine what a property that is earmarked for land reform is worth. The valuer-general has the final say. Once a price is determined and decision is made, government can then elect to pay the landowner what it considers a ‘fair’ price for the land, whether the landowner chooses to sell or not.
Legal land grabs will become the norm

Thirdly, despite many assurances by the ANC government, legal land grabs will become the norm in much the same way it happened in Zimbabwe.

The presidency stated, “The Act aims to, amongst others, provide for the establishment, functions and powers of the Office of the Valuer-General”.

It will also provide for the regulation of the valuation of property that has been identified for land reform as well as property that has been identified for acquisition or disposal by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

What they’re actually trying to tell us is that if a certain president has political favours to repay he could actually legally take land from someone at a cost that is determined by the valuer-general. He could then freely distribute that land. No questions asked.

Do not be deluded into thinking this law applies only to agricultural farmland. It is applicable to all privately-owned property – residential, commercial and industrial. This is quite clear from the name of the act, “Property Valuation Act”. Technically it entitles govern to expropriate any property.

If the president or minister is not satisfied with the valuer-general’s progress or property values determined by the valuer-general, he may overrule it. Alternatively, the president could simply retrench a valuer-general and appoint a new one. Someone whose strings can be pulled easily.

The Property Valuation Act, together with the upcoming land reform act just opens up numerous loopholes for new forms of corruption.

According to the first draft of the upcoming land reform bill the minister of public works will have the ‘general right to expropriation’.

Government would be able to notify a landowner of its intention to expropriate land. The landowner will have thirty (30) days to respond with a price they want for the land. Government will then have twenty (20) days to accept or reject the landowner’s asking price. If government does not agree with the price, it can make an offer based on what the valuer-general consider a fair value. If the landowner does not willingly accept the offer within forty (40) days, government can simply go ahead and expropriate the land in any case.

The Property Valuation Act is a dark cloud that will ever darken the horizon of our democracy. We can foresee many court cases. There will be a gnashing of teeth, many tears will be shed, until this law is revoked.

Opposition caught napping

While the EFF, DA and others have been so fixated on the Nkandla scandal, they were caught napping on this new land grab law.

The bottom line is, this new law is vexing and dangerous in the hands of a government that seeks to justify a R3 million 'fire pool' and pays R142 million for 21 rondawels, building costs totalling R250 million in non-security upgrades for the president’s private Nkandla residence. Opposition parties are fighting a losing battle on Nkandla.

Instead of being more vigilant in opposing this new Property Valuation Act, opposition parties have been rather docile and mute in their response. They haven’t done enough to challenge it, with dire consequences for all South Africans.

Unfortunately, a petition with millions of signatories won’t persuade government to repeal this law. We’ve past the debating and consultation phases. This new land grab is going to be enforced come hell or high water.

Wholesale Nationalisation

Finally, what is most vexing about this new property valuation act is that it allows the ANC government to nationalise private property at any price they want to pay. This

All of the land that government has purchased up to now for land reform purposes is still owned by the government. None of it has been transferred to previously disadvantaged people.

I am confident that this valuation law will be challenged in the courts of law. So, it should. With enough support against it, it can be stopped.

But we can no longer afford to remain passive or silent. We should start to use or collective our voices. Mobilise and actively become part of a movement to oppose this type of unjust legislation. Stop saying there's nothing we can do and rather get involved in organisations trying to do something. This is my responsibility, and it is your responsibility.
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