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More clarity needed on expropriation bill, says Agri SA

Dec 21 2018 15:33

Agri SA says the draft Expropriation Bill which was released for public comment on Friday is still not clear enough on the definition of "expropriation".

The newly-released bill deals mostly with expropriation with compensation and was released by Public Works minister Thulas Nxesi. It does, however, also provide some detail on when land may be expropriated without compensation.

The bill defines expropriation as "the compulsory acquisition of property by an expropriating authority or an organ of state upon request to an expropriating authority". 

But according to Agri SA, the definition poses a danger in that the state can place all kinds of restrictions on ownership without compensating the owner.

Agri SA said this was out of line with international trends, where expropriation is understood within a wider context.

In terms of expropriation without compensation, the bill states, "It may be just and equitable for nil compensation to be paid where land is expropriated in the public interest, having regard to all relevant circumstances, including but not limited to where the land is occupied or used by a labour tenant, as defined in the Land Reform Act, where the land is held for purely speculative purposes; where the land is owned by a state-owned corporation or other state-owned entity; where the owner of the land has abandoned the land; where the market value of the land is equivalent to, or less than, the present value of direct state investment or subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the land".

Agri SA's biggest concern about the new bill is the expropriation of land occupied by "labour tenants", because the organisation regards these claims as "complex and most of the claims have not yet been verified".

"The status as labour tenants of many people living on farms in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga has not yet been clarified," according to Crosby.

"There are also concerns about the uneconomic nature of many of the parcels of land on which there are labour tenant claims as well as its productive use. The real problem is that the Labour Tenant Act has never been properly implemented."

According to Agri SA, the new bill does provide more clarity on expropriation without compensation (EWC), but the reach and definitions must urgently be clarified.

"The Expropriation Act is not entirely separate from the current debate on the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution, but essentially provides a political solution that will bring more legal certainty," states Agri SA.

The organisation is opposed to EWC.

"We support the principle that owners should not be in a better or worse position after expropriation, their position should be unchanged as if no expropriation took place," Crosby says.

    READ: Lagarde shares ideas on land expropriation with Ramaphosa

Agri SA points out that this is the third version of the Expropriation Bill, which aims to bring greater legal certainty on the implementation of more than 200 existing laws that allow for expropriation.

Agri SA has been involved since the first draft in 2008 in discussions, including the Nedlac negotiations on the bill. It says it will submit written comments on the bill and actively participate in all the consultation processes that follow.

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