Organised agriculture and human rights organisations have raised their concern that the provincial public hearings for the proposed Expropriation Bill, which seeks to replace the Act of 1975, are being manipulated by the Department of Public Works to facilitate the speedy passing of the Bill through parliament.
Dr Anthea Jeffery, head of special research at the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) said that interested parties first had to make written submissions to the Portfolio Committee of Public Works before they could be invited to make oral submissions at the public hearings and present their cases.
Some argue that this may allow the Department of Public Works to pick and choose whose argument it hears, which may serve the department’s own objectives. A nnelize Crosby, AgriSA’s portfolio manager for parliamentary liaison and land affairs, said it was worrying that public hearings were being held with such urgency. “This Bill has been in the pipeline for years,” said Crosby. “We don’t know the reason for the haste, but I think it must be political.”
Her sentiments are shared by TAU SA general manager Bennie van Zyl. He said that his organisation was not opposed to expropriation, but stressed it had to be conducted in a responsible way. “should be used to create wealth and prosperity for the country’s citizens,” said Van Zyl. “But even these public hearings are just another one of government’s facades.” t the public hearings the Bill was largely challenged by organised agriculture, with a “large portion of the general public unaware that it affects them too,” said Dr Jeffery.
She said it was vital for the general public and business to get involved in rejecting the Bill. “The IRR has proposed changes to two clauses in the current Expropriation Act, to bring it more in line with the constitution,” said Dr Jeffery.
“We would welcome support from any organisation that agrees with the changes we’re proposing.” he said that if the Department of Public Works decided not to implement changes other options still existed before it could be challenged in the Constitutional Court by the public. “According to Section 79 of the constitution the president could be reminded of his power to refer the Bill to the to test its constitutionality even after it has been rubber stamped by parliament,” said Dr Jeffery. “80 of the constitution states that at least a one-third contingent of the national assembly can apply to the Constitutional Court for an audit declaring that all or part of the act is unconstitutional.
They have 30 days after the president has signed it into law to do this.” Under both circumstances the cost of contesting the Bill in court is carried by the state. T he Bill in its current form has wide-ranging consequences, according to “It doesn’t only affect agriculture and we haven’t seen many other roleplayers making submissions yet,” she explained. “But we’re hoping that the contents of the Bill will be changed so that court action would be unnecessary.” t’s with this hope that farmers’ unions are submitting their grievances.
Fritz Ahrens, chairperson of the Louis Trichardt Farmers’ Union and chairperson of the land affairs committee at north, attended the public hearings in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo, on 26 May. He presented his organisation’s grievances, saying that it was unfair that the Bill blocked access to the courts and that it would make it legal for the state to take farmers’ land even if the farmers had acquired it legally. “It’s always said that farmers stole land,” said Ahrens.
“But to date no farmer has been taken to court for theft of land. This Bill is political.” According to Ahrens, one black man stood up at the hearing and said he was concerned about food security. “Just because government has failed in land reform does not mean that it has to change its laws to get land,” said Ahrens. “Commercial farmers want a future for all the blood, sweat and tears they have invested. They feel this Bill is directed against them.” dvocate Nikki de Havilland, deputy director at the Centre for Constitutional Rights at the FW de Klerk Foundation, cautioned that criticising the Bill could be interpreted as criticism of reform. “No one is against reform, but this Bill will not further reform in South Africa,” said De Havilland. – David Steynberg
Bob gets tough on US diplomat
Zimbabwe’s president Mugabe accused the US ambassador, James McGee, of meddling after he publicly called on Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, to return home to contest the presidential run-off on 27 June. “am just waiting to see if he takes one more step wrong,” he told a rally as he stepped up campaigning. “As tall as he is, if he continues to do that will kick him out of the country.” Mugabe also offered land to thousands of Zimbabweans who are fleeing violence in townships. “We have land for our people in SA, who may want to return home,” he said. – ZWNEWS
Egypt invited to share SA forestry wealth
Mpumalanga Premier Thabang Makwetla was in Egypt this week to sign a memorandum of understanding with his Egyptian counterpart in the Ismailia province, Major-General Abdel Fakharany, and the Chamber of Commerce. According to the agreement, business representatives are to explore investment opportunities in Mpumalanga’s furniture and wood processing industries. SA’s forestry industry is concentrated on the lowveld escarpments of Mpumalanga. “There are exciting and inviting possibilities for both of us,” said Makwetla “Our enterprises will benefit from skills and technology exchange programmes.” – BuaNews