Letter: Land grab bill is not 'constitutional' - Cape Argus

20 October 2020 - The newly gazetted Expropriation Bill of 2020 will allow the government to nationalise far more than land. Homes, business premises, mining rights, shares, and many other assets fall within the Bill’s definition of ‘property’ and will be equally vulnerable to expropriation without compensation.

The newly gazetted Expropriation Bill of 2020 will allow the government to nationalise far more than land. Homes, business premises, mining rights, shares, and many other assets fall within the Bill’s definition of ‘property’ and will be equally vulnerable to expropriation without compensation.

To suggest that it is only land of a particular kind that will be vulnerable to uncompensated seizure is even more misleading. According to public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille, land will not be confiscated unless it is ‘unused, abandoned, or poses a safety risk’.

But the Bill’s list of the circumstances in which ‘nil’ compensation may be paid is expressly ‘not limited’ to the examples cited by the minister. Hence, there is little in the Bill to stop other valuable property from falling within its ‘nil’ compensation provisions.

In these circumstances, Ms de Lille’s claim that the Bill ‘brings certainty’ to ‘investors unnerved about property rights’ is absurd.

This is especially so when the Bill’s narrow definition of ‘expropriation’ would allow the government to take custodianship of all land and buildings in the country without this counting as an expropriation – and without any compensation having to be paid.

All current owners of such property would find their title deeds were then worthless. They would also need leases from the state to keep occupying or using what they used to own.

A Bill so profoundly threatening to the property rights of all South Africans is undoubtedly not ‘constitutional’. In certifying it as such, the chief state law adviser is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes – and adding insult to potentially enormous injury.

Dr Anthea Jeffery

Head of Policy Research, Institute of Race Relations

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