Letter: Land report leaves SA up in the air - Financial Mail

8 August 2019 - More seriously, the cumulative impact of the report’s recommendation would be to expand the powers and discretion for government to take property, directly or indirectly: constitutional amendments, expropriation, land ceilings, ‘punitive’ taxes and so on.

Claudi Mailovich (‘Land plan: living in la-la land?’, 1 August 2019) joins a chorus of voices depicting the report on the presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture as providing at least some of the certainty lacking as a result of the raucous ‘debate’ over the country’s land politics.

This is debatable. As Mailovich notes, the report is not binding. It presents a set of ideas that government may choose to implement, or to ignore.

On the vexed and investment-killing issue of Expropriation without Compensation (EWC), the report does not spell out ‘exactly’ the conditions under which it will take place. Rather, it lists ten such conditions (as opposed to five in the Expropriation Bill), while stating that ‘nil’ compensation is ‘not limited to’ these.

More seriously, the cumulative impact of the report’s recommendation would be to expand the powers and discretion for government to take property, directly or indirectly: constitutional amendments, expropriation, land ceilings, ‘punitive’ taxes and so on.

Indeed, it is quite possible that the report’s specific recommendations might be ignored, but its overall thrust invoked as justification for ‘comprehensive’ or ‘radical’ action – perhaps with a view to the nationalisation of all land, an option publicly endorsed by some within the ruling party and the government.

The report makes it clear that the threats to property rights remain very much alive; and it does little to provide clarity for planning around this. The deleterious effect on South Africa’s economy of this situation can only be expected to grind on.

Terence Corrigan

Project Manager, Institute of Race Relations

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