Hope for the future of land expropriation

It is our mandate as ‘born frees’ to use our newly found democratic voices to address the injustices of our past.

By Junior Dlamini 

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 3 of VARSITY News.

Land expropriation has been a major facet of democratic South Africa and this topic is gaining more interest than ever before in recent years. South Africa has a long history when it comes to discrimination and oppression with regard to land ownership. I believe that it is our mandate as ‘born frees’ to use our newly found democratic voices to address the injustices of our past. ‘Land expropriation’ falls within that scope, but what is the most effective way to do it?

I feel that land expropriation, done efficiently and promptly, serves as an adequate solution to the land distribution dilemma that plagues our country as a consequence of the apartheid regime. Previously, section 25 of the Constitution, which provides for how land expropriation is to be implemented, was understood to have attached compensation at a market-related price as a condition for expropriation. I believe that this interpretation was simply a political error and a misinterpretation of the constitutional provision. The ‘compensation clause’ in section 25 of the Constitution makes no mention of a market-related price.  

An ad-hoc committee has proposed an amendment to section 25. I am hopeful that this amendment will bring clarity to the requirements that the state must comply with when it expropriates property. This amendment makes it explicit that in some instances, the state may feel that it is “just and equitable” to not pay any compensation at all but must provide sufficient justification for this decision. 

I am highly disheartened with the way in which the government has been slacking in redistributing land.  The ANC’s favoured “willing-seller”, “willing buyer” model has been slow in achieving progress. Recently a survey of title deeds was done, and it was revealed that since the beginning of this model in 1994, only 8 percent of farmland has been transferred to Black hands. This 8 percent falls embarrassingly short of the 30 percent target that the ANC aimed to achieve by 2014. A contributing factor to these figures is that government policy favours payment of compensation to claimants (rather than the return of land), if the land that is claimed has been earmarked for other national objectives, such as a development area. 

I think that expropriation without compensation will without a doubt speed up the expropriation process, but it must be done fairly. As long as it is done in a “just and equitable” manner, then I am confident that the State will achieve a desirable outcome for the interests of previously disadvantaged South Africans, and it will further the transformative and progressive mission of democratic South Africa. The sooner we address the injustices of the past, the sooner we can find ourselves in a South Africa where our citizens are all at a level playing field and demographics will no longer have a significant role in politics.

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