DA withdraws from Expropriation Bill hearings

The public consultations on the Expropriation Bill that are currently underway are so deeply flawed that the Democratic Alliance (DA) has been left with no choice but to withdraw from the process.
Issue date : 13 June 2008

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The public consultations on the Expropriation Bill that are currently underway are so deeply flawed that the Democratic Alliance (DA) has been left with no choice but to withdraw from the process.

This is according to Sydney Opperman, the DA spokesperson for Public Works, who said the DA is no longer prepared to take part in what amounts to a farce. Opperman said the hearings are being conducted in an unconstitutional manner and it’s a shame that a of such profound importance is being handled in such a chaotic manner. “The venues and dates for the provincial public hearings on the Bill have not been properly advertised, resulting in members of the public being unable to attend,” said Opperman.

The "situation is so bad that even members of the portfolio committee on Public Works are often not timeously informed of the hearings. Where information is available it’s often contradictory, with conflicting times and venues allocated to members of the committee by different parliamentary officials.” Werner Weber, Freedom Front Plus (FF+) spokesperson on agriculture, is of the opinion that the hearings only create an illusion of public participation.

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“The ANC government wants us to think that it would take cognizance of the comments at the hearings, but it has already made up its mind to push the through at all costs,” said Weber. “announcement of the draconian Expropriation was too hasty and the proper organisation of the hearings fell by the wayside in the haste to get them over and done with.

It was all badly organised and won’t make any difference anyhow.” “Take the hearings in the Free State,” said Abrie Oosthuizen, the leader of the FF+ in the province. “One hearing was held in Bethlehem and the other in the Phase Two Grasland squatter camp in Bloemfontein. There are a host of suitable venues in the city, why then decide to hold the hearings in a tent in a squatter camp? “We will register our comments about the Bill with the portfolio committee and hand in written comments on the hearings in Bethlehem, but we find it impossible to attend the hearing in the squatter camp.” pperman agrees.

He said it appears as if a decision was taken to hold many of the hearings in remote locations. “It’s important to afford all South Africans the opportunity to be heard at the hearings, but choosing venues that are difficult to access is nonsensical,” he said. “In most cases only the municipalities are indicated, without the specific towns and venues where the hearings are supposed to be held. This causes confusion. The programme that was made available to the portfolio committee also differs from the programme released in parliament.

My colleague in the Free State, Andries Botha, tried to find out where the hearings were to be held and all he was told was that they would be in Bloemfontein.” A report of objections to the Bill will have to be drafted after the consultation process, but, said Opperman, “there is simply no way that such a report will reflect a fair and accurate balance of opinion on the likely consequences of this potentially disastrous legislation.” Farmer’s Weekly tried in vain to obtain a copy of the programme for the public hearings.

After a number of phone calls the staff in the office of the secretary of the portfolio committee on Public Works eventually answered. Our reporter was promised that a copy of the programme would be e-mailed without delay, but at the time of going to print, three days later, no such programme had arrived. – Annelie Coleman

Electricity hike could worsen the food crisis

AGRI SA has proposed to the National energy regulator of (Nersa) that, because government has accepted responsibility for the electricity crisis, it should communicate this in financial terms by reducing or eliminating the impact of proposed price hikes. “The agricultural sector should be handled with circumspection to avoid constraining agricultural production and exacerbating the food-price crisis,” warned Agri in its submission.

Agri reminded Nersa that a few years ago farmers were encouraged to adapt their production systems to use electricity, because it was suggested that it would be more economically viable in the long term.

To comply, farmers laid out large amounts of capital to electrify their irrigation systems, lighting and climate control systems. “Since the initial decisions were based on advice from a state-owned monopoly, there should also be some state involvement to absorb the cost of alternatives,” the statement read. While consumers would like Eskom’s request for a 53% tariff increase rejected, Agri said that if Eskom was granted the tariff increase it should exploit all sources of electricity as quickly and meaningfully as possible, such as by using co-generation.

Agri also called for transparency, with Eskom releasing regular, detailed planning and monitoring reports. “The real cause of the present crisis should also be subject to an independent inquiry, given that the growth of the economy and therefore the increase in electricity consumption can hardly serve as a full explanation for the existing crisis,” the report read. – David Steynberg