The land expropriation debate used to mark a political point …


The Expropriation Bill continues to treat land as property, in accordance with European notions and practices of private property imposed by colonial subjugation. (Photo: EPA / Kevin Sutherland)

The Trust for Community Outreach and Education, as a land rights-based NGO, welcomed the opportunity to comment on the Expropriation Bill 2020. However, we doubt that the amendment to the draft law achieves its proclaimed intentions.

Boyce Tom is a researcher at the Trust for Community Outreach and Education. He is based in Cape Town

The bill has been touted as an attempt to find solutions to the slow, market-based 27-year South African land reform program. Prior to the last national elections in 2019, there had been intense debates on the need to expropriate land without compensation as a mechanism to accelerate land delivery.

The issue has once again become a major topic of discussion in the run-up to the local elections on November 1, 2021, with the land issue being used as a tool to score political points among political parties representing various interest groups.

As an organization committed to raising a voice and working with poor rural people, small landless producers, agricultural workers and farm-dwelling communities, the trust, in collaboration with the Mouvement foncier national d ‘Inyanda, facilitated discussion platforms with marginalized individuals and communities across the country to discuss the implications of the bill.

We have heard from farmers who want to farm but have no land or water; rural populations in communal areas who continue to be deprived of their ancestral lands and livelihoods for the benefit of multinational companies in collusion with the government; workers and residents of commercial farms who continue to experience land tenure insecurity due to the failure and inadequacy of existing legislation to protect their rights and who have been excluded from the land reform program.

These are people and communities whose land rights are very precarious, where private colonial property imposed has supreme status over all forms of rights.

We note that the laws on the expropriation of land existed long before 1994 and that the bill under discussion aims to replace Law 65 of 1975 as well as parallel processes of amending Article 25 of the Constitution. This is useful context to the history of expropriation and illustrates situations where the state in the past has expropriated large tracts of land primarily for public purposes with minimal or no compensation, although public purposes included expropriation for roads and rail infrastructure. In fact, the law served to consolidate the homelands and gave effect to massive population displacements under the Group Areas Act and apartheid spatial engineering projects. Such projects are still not canceled, and there has been no significant progress on restitution claims.

Farmers in the informal neighborhood of Duduza on June 9, 2020. The rights of agricultural workers and farm dwellers continue to be overlooked in the bill. (Photo by Gallo Images / JO Koloti)

The new bill aims to repeal the 1975 law including the public interest in accordance with Article 25 of the Constitution, providing for expropriation subject to fair and equitable compensation. With compensation planned based on market value, it is difficult to imagine a significant breakthrough in the current policy of voluntary buyer and voluntary seller responsible for the slow pace of land reform. The following article of the bill deals with the above:

The amount of compensation to be paid to an expropriated owner or an expropriated holder must be fair and equitable, reflecting a fair balance between the public interest and the interests of the expropriated owner or the expropriated holder, taking into account all the relevant circumstances. , notably :

  • Current use of the property;
  • The history of the acquisition and use of the property;
  • The market value of the property;
  • The extent of the state’s direct investment and subsidy in the acquisition and improvement of the beneficial capital of the property;
  • The purpose of the expropriation.

We are led to believe that the state will expropriate land from private owners and redistribute it to the landless, but the Trust for Community Outreach and Education and the Inyanda National Movement believe the bill has many limits and we are serious doubts about the government’s commitment to land reform.

The process is tightly designed between the state and the owners and does not offer real possibilities for expropriation without compensation. The bill continues to treat land as property, in accordance with European notions and practices of private property imposed by colonial subjugation, rather than African practices of treating land as a finite natural resource that must be put to use. available to those who need it to produce food.

The bill does not explicitly state that land will be expropriated for indigenous peoples who have been dispossessed of land over time and that it will not once again dispossess those who hold “unregistered” land. land rights and that their rights will be effectively protected. The rights of agricultural workers and farm dwellers continue to be overlooked in the bill. Overall, there was no room for active citizen participation beyond submissions. We also believe that an important opportunity to make a significant contribution to the fight against poverty, unemployment and inequality is missed.

The bill was adopted by the ad hoc committee earlier this month and is now before the National Assembly. We hope that the National Assembly will consider the issues that we have put on the table. Land reform must be done, but from the bottom up. We want land with water to grow food. We must not repeat the many mistakes of some of the land reform “projects” so far, where farmers have had access to land but without water or any other infrastructure.

Our farmers and farm workers have skills and want to become food producers to deal with the high levels of hunger and malnutrition in South Africa, which have worsened due to Covid-19. Our farmers can become the primary food providers for our communities. We stress that women farmers must have access to land. We, the landless, also want land for residential and recreational purposes to heal our communities. In this, we add our voice to landless communities in urban and peri-urban areas.

We believe that land reform is imperative, as most of the land in the country is still in the hands of the wealthy few. The land underpins the identity, history, culture, dignity and heritage of people. However, we doubt that the current amendments will result in land reform that will benefit those who need it most and deserve it most. We must also ensure that the crucial debate on land reform does not end after the elections. SM / MC

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