Nationalisation of land not on the cards – presidential panel member

By News24
28 Jul 2019 0

Although many opponents of expropriation of land without compensation equates this with nationalisation, and the EFF's policy is that land should be nationalised, the Constitution currently does not provide for this, one of the members of the presidential panel of experts on land reform and agriculture, Bulelwa Mabasa, explained on Sunday as the panel's report was introduced to the public.

The panel’s chairperson, Vuyokazi Mahlati, said its work was not just about Section 25 of the Constitution – the property clause – but it did work on proposals on when expropriation without compensation should apply.

She said the majority of the panel endorsed the view that Section 25 should be amended to allow expropriation without compensation.

“It is an inescapable fact that Section 25 is compensation-centric,” she said.

The panel found land redistribution should no longer be dependent on the willing buyer, willing seller principle.

She said expropriation is one of the levers or strategies to acquire land. The panel also suggested other strategies, like land donations.

It also recommended several circumstances when land should be expropriated without compensation.

Two members of the panel, Dan Kriek and Nic Serfontein, did not endorse the report and will provide their own report. The main reason for their opposition is expropriation without compensation. Their views are reflected in the panel’s report.

Asked if the panel has a finding on nationalisation of land, Mabasa said that to the panel’s understanding of law and the Constitution, there was no provision for the nationalisation of land.

“Nationalisation is not on the cards in the current Constitutional dispensation,” she said.

Among the panel’s other major recommendations are that there should be a focus on urban land reform and that government should develop an urban land reform policy.

It further recommends that government’s land reform policy should be consolidated and that a new white paper should be drafted.

The panel also believed that the Land Claims Court should be reformed as it did not fulfill the mandate for which it was created.

The panel stressed the importance of eradicating land corruption, and suggested the establishment of an office of a land rights protector – an ombudsman that could refer cases to the National Prosecuting Authority.

The panel calls for an end to farm evictions.

The panel also suggests that private titles for inhabitants of communal land should be avoided.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said: “In addressing the land question, government is not only addressing the historical legacy of dispossession but at the same time recognises the multifaceted role of land in the economy of the country as well as social development.  Speedy delivery of land for human settlement will not only provide our people with houses as assets but also will ensure integrated spatial planning where we can work towards de-racialising our communities.”

She said the panel was appointed in September 2018 to advise government on circumstances in which the policy on expropriation without compensation will be implemented, what procedures to follow and institutions to enforce, as well as the rights of any affected persons, including the rights to judicial review.

The report was presented to cabinet on Wednesday and each government department has been given two months to study the report and come up with a plan for implementation.

Shortly after the panel and Didiza’s media briefing, the DA released a statement rejecting the panel’s report.

“Its suggestions are high-risk, and at best promise low-reward for those in need of meaningful land reform,” DA MP and spokesperson on agriculture, land reform and rural development Thandeka Mbabama said.

“The majority endorsement of land expropriation without compensation will further batter our ailing economy, and the suggestion to move land reform to the Presidency will undermine the entire department and the minister, and would move this crucial function to an office without the specialisations necessary to execute.”

Last year, the National Assembly adopted a motion to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation, despite the objections of opposition parties like the DA, FF Plus, IFP and ACDP. DM