Draft land expropriation bill released for comment

By Ana Monteiro

(Bloomberg) – South Africa released for public comment a draft Expropriation Bill that outlines the circumstances under which the state can take land without paying for it.

It may be just and equitable for no compensation to be paid where land is expropriated in the public interest, the government said in draft legislation released Friday on the Green Gazette website.

Key insights:

  • Land can be taken without pay if it’s occupied or used by a labour tenant, if it’s held for purely speculative purposes, belongs to a state-owned company, where the owner has abandoned it, among others, the bill says.
  • An expropriating authority may have a right to use property temporarily if it’s urgently required for a period not exceeding 12 months.
  • The public has 60 days from today to submit written comments on the bill to the Department of Public Works.
  • The passage of the bill through parliament is separate to plans by the ruling African National Congress to change the constitution to make it easier to seize land without paying for it.
  • Lawmakers in both chambers of parliament this month approved a lawmakers’ report that recommends the constitutional amendment. They will now establish another parliamentary committee to draft a bill needed to make the changes.
  • The ANC says the constitutional change is needed to address racially skewed ownership patterns dating back to apartheid and white minority rule.
  • Farmers’ groups and some opposition parties say the changes will undermine property rights and deter investment.
  • The draft released today is the third version of the bill, with the first iteration released in 2008, according to Agri SA, the country’s biggest farming industry lobby group. While the proposed law provides more clarity on expropriation without compensation, which Agri SA opposes, its reach and definitions must be clarified “urgently,” it said in an emailed statement. Agri SA said the definition of expropriation in the new bill is too narrow and is out of line with international trends, posing “the danger that the state can place all kinds of restrictions on ownership without compensating the owner,” it said.