Property & Wealth

Expropriation Bill might be a boon for EFF

Malema pleased with Expropriation Bill

If signed by President Jacob Zuma, the Expropriation Bill might offer the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) a wonderful opportunity to upstage the ANC government on the land reform front.

The EFF has made its intentions clear. If it manages to gain control over some jurisdictions in the upcoming local government election, they will use Act to grab the initiative for their land reform policy.

The EFF’s election manifesto is clear: It will focus on land redistribution – whether by agreement or by force.

Their ultimate objective, in simple terms, is to transfer the ownership and custodianship of land to the State for administration and use for “sustainable development purposes”. That transfer to the state should also happen without compensation.

The template

Ironically, it looks like their approach is based on a template supplied by the ANC. In 2002 the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MRRDA) was enacted. It made the state the sole holder and arbiter of all relevant minerals and related rights. The draft Expropriation Bill is presently on the president’s desk while the widespread objections to its present form are pondered.

The EFF also vigorously opposes the draft Bill in its present form – not because of its lack of constitutionality, but because it still offers compensation for expropriated land, albeit in a much diluted form.

EFF spokesman Mbuyisani Ndlozi did not mince his words, emphasising that they agree wholeheartedly with the empowerment of the state “to retake the land”, but that their policy will expressly allow expropriation without compensation.

However, Section 25 of the Constitution stipulates that expropriation by the state is sanctioned in the “public interest” but only against the payment of “just and equitable” compensation.

Election talk

EFF leader Julius Malema is categorical on the land issue – the EFF argues that landlessness is the main reason why black people live in absolute poverty; to address this, the EFF will expropriate “stolen” land without compensation in all municipalities they might govern after this year’s elections, and they will give people free stands to live on.

Milking the populist and emotive land issue in his campaign, Malema is also signaling the EFF’s intentions to exploit the possibilities that will be opened for them by the Expropriation Bill.  

As a constitutionally recognised government level of the state, EFF municipalities will seize available land legally and defend the court cases that might follow.

Biznews recently quoted him as saying: “What this means is that when we are (the) government in any municipality, we will allocate all available land to the people for residential, industrial, religious and recreational purposes, and no one will stop the EFF from doing so.”

At the rock face

He clearly grasps that municipal authorities are government at its closest to the people and at the rock face of service delivery. Municipalities are vested with powers for the planning for residential development, industrial promotions, local sports facilities, cemeteries and other services requiring land.

He also quoted from Section 151(4) of the Constitution that prescribes that the “national or provincial government may not compromise or impede a municipality’s ability or right to exercise its powers or perform its functions”.

He then argues: “It is, therefore, logical that when the Constitution assigned these tasks, it also gave the municipality a degree of powers to allocate land ...”

EFF municipalities will adopt the ‘use it or lose it’ principle and would pass by-laws allowing for the expropriation and allocation of land to provide bulk services.

In this vein they would also support programmes to train people to become farmers with the express aim of increasing agricultural productivity. 

Not all their own way

However, the EFF will not have it all their own way. The Sub-division of Agricultural Land Act, for instance, prohibits owners of agricultural land from sub-dividing it. The EFF will need the consent of the Minister of Rural Affairs and Land Reform to do that.

Clearly, the abundance of (mostly white held) farmland is in the line of fire and at stake here as the ‘land issue’ might be set to become a battle ground in parts of the country, post the August elections.

It is estimated that since 1994 only some eight million hectares of farmland have been successfully transferred to black owners, accounting for only about 10% of the land which was in white hands in 1994.

A key dilemma is government’s inability, to date, to meet the ANC’s long-running target of transferring 30% of this land to black ownership and impatience has set in – a factor now exploited by the EFF.  

In a bid to expedite the process, government is also planning to impose limits on farm sizes to, it is argued, free up land, which can then be redistributed.

Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, informed Reuters that they intended to set a range of limits – between a 1,000 hectare for the small-scale farms up to a maximum of 12 000 hectares for the large-scale farming.

He further argued that “if you are a small-scale farmer and have 1400 ha, we will buy the 400, and leave you with your 1,000 ha. We will buy the extra and redistribute it to black people”.

Kruger Park example

He was speaking at a ceremony in the Kruger National Park where President Zuma handed over R84 million as compensation to several black communities that had been evicted from their land decades ago.

They had claims on two million hectares of the National Park from which they had been removed in terms of the Native Land Act of 1913.

By all accounts this feat is a feather in the government’s cap as it managed to keep the National Park intact while compensating the claimants for past wrongs.

But this is a success story exactly because the process allowed equitable redress against fair and reasonable compensation ... which is the only way to go if we are to remain a competitive economy that attracts the foreign direct investment we so desperately need to stimulate growth and job creation. It is an absolute requirement of the rating agencies, whether we agree with them or not.

The other side of the coin is explored by independent agriculture economist Fanie Brink in an article on MyNews website last week.

He warns that the way land reform policies are implemented is creating “unnecessary uncertainty and will plunge the country into famine and bigger poverty”.

At the heart of his arguments is that the interventionist policies are disruptive of market forces, which are the real drivers of economic growth.

by Eve van Basten

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