Land Bill nears completion – Court gets final say. DA, EFF concerned.

Land reform is a massive talking point, since the days that saw the end of Apartheid. But the process around who has rights to the land and compensation for it have always had stumbling blocks. It’s a sensitive issue and government says it’s close to completing the new Expropriation Bill, which is a key element to land reform. It sets out the steps to follow when expropriating land, and how to deal with any disputes. It also gives courts the final say. Both the DA and EFF have concerns around the bill. The EFF questions compensation, while the DA is worried the bill could extend to intellectual property and shares, and says under its current form any case could be challenged in a Constitutional Court. Which ultimately questions the power of the bill in the first place. Land reform is an issue that changed the course of northern neighbours Zimbabwe, and one that needs to done in a manner that all parties can feel fairly done by. That’s certainly not easy to achieve but time is also slowly running by and something needs to be agreed upon. – Stuart Lowman

By Jenni Evans, News24

Parliament – A proposed new expropriation law is nearing completion, with MPs putting the final touches to a key element of the government’s land reform programme.

The Expropriation Bill is in the final stages of a lengthy drafting process aimed at aligning expropriation with the Constitution and providing certainty for all affected parties, as it is used for land reform and reforms to bring equitable access to natural resources.

land-reform

It sets out the painstaking steps, administrative procedures, and time frames on how property can be expropriated, and what to do if there is a dispute.

It provides for expropriation with compensation and states that no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.

It also makes the courts the final arbiter of any disputes.

It stipulates who is responsible for the maintenance of a property that is being expropriated until the expropriation goes through (the property owner is responsible until expropriation is finalised), among other points of clarity.

Read also: Jeremy Cronin: Land expropriation bill makes provision – should remain

It gives local authorities, such as a municipal manager, a chance to submit an opinion on the effect that the expropriation will have on municipal planning and gives unregistered rights holders a say in the process.

The Bill has support from the ANC MPs on the Public Works Committee, which is deliberating over it, but the EFF and the DA do not like it in its present form.

Compensation is a key element of the Bill, which the EFF rejects in line with its own policies on expropriation without compensation.

At the other end of the spectrum, the DA, although not opposed to expropriation, has a problem with the vagueness of the word “property” in reference to property that can be expropriated.

According to the draft, property is defined in terms of Section 25 of the Constitution which deals with property rights.

Read also: Anthea Jeffery: A much better Expropriation Bill

This section states that property is not confined to land. It could be a person whose tenure of land is legally insecure as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices. It allows restitution as a result of past discriminatory laws in the form of either property, or “equitable redress”.

It states that no provision may impede the state from taking legislative and other measures to achieve land, water and related reform to address past racial discrimination.

“The definition of ‘property’ can be anything,” said DA MP Anchen Dreyer on the sidelines of the meeting.

“It could be extended to the expropriation of intellectual property and shares, for example. It is not specified.”

The opposition party had tried to have the definition changed to be more specific, but had failed.

Read also: Land reform: Study says willing buyer, willing seller still best for Namibia

Dreyer warned that the Bill could be challenged in the Constitutional Court if it was passed as is.

The DA is also concerned that the process to determine compensation is vague.

The government has previously worked on the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller”. The shift now is for compensation that is “just and equitable” and is a balance between public interest and the interest of the expropriated owner.

“It does not go far enough. It should be very clearly stipulated who determines the price and we want it to be strengthened up in that regard,” said Dreyer.

The committee will meet again next week for further discussion and potentially lead up to a vote on whether the Bill is accepted. – News24

Source: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/new-expropriation-law-nears-completion-20160126