The expropriation bill will not REMAIN permanently buried and it can be anticipated that it will be resurrected sooner or later, said Advocate Nichola de Havilland, the deputy director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights. She was speaking at the recent Agricultural Markets Trend (AMT) Outlook Conference in Pretoria. De Havilland commented that conflicting reasons from both Public Works and the portfolio committee why the Bill was shelved were hard to believe. One of the reasons given was a lack of consultation. However the agriculture minister had confirmed that more than 3 000 submissions had been made by various stakeholders.
De Havilland added that while government had anticipated resistance from the commercial farming sector, they had not anticipated the public outcry which followed. “We acknowledge the shameful history of our country and the necessity of expropriation, and while these issues have to be addressed, there’s no need for the Bill to contravene the constitution,” De Havilland said, stressing that the will not only affect white farmers but all property owners.
She added that various clauses of the constitution had been violated by the previous incarnation of the “The just and equitable compensation clause was at risk,” she said. This clause demands that the expropriating authority should determine the date of expropriation and possession, and the time and manner of payment. “However, the ignored this clause.”
De Havilland also referred to some other worrying factors such as the courts’ limited authority in terms of their final jurisdiction and role in reviewing the decisions to expropriate. She said that various scenarios could be envisaged around this, with one being that South Africa was heading the same way as Zimbabwe.
She said the other scenario could harken back to be the ancient Greek story of the Trojan horse, where the country could be caught sleeping at the resumption of the Bill.
“The third scenario could be a constitutional one where we can all work together to make the work,” she said, adding that the existing Expropriation Act should be amended to allow for expropriation in the public interest.
De Havilland went on to say that the current state of land reform is unacceptable and the main reason for the delays was not due to a lack of funds but rather a lack of capacity. “We should help enhance departmental capacity to provide post-restitution support and also to expedite land reform,” she said. “The way forward for all of us is to liaise with other civil society groups, to lobby parliamentarians, inform our own constituencies and make submissions to the portfolio committee.” – Peter Mashala