State identifies farms for land expropriation test cases

05 August 2018 - 00:00 By AMIL UMRAW
The department of rural development & land reform has identified 139 farms across the country that will serve as test cases for land expropriation without compensation.
The department of rural development & land reform has identified 139 farms across the country that will serve as test cases for land expropriation without compensation.
Image: Thinkstock Images

As the ANC prepares a raft of legislative changes to speed up land reform, the government has identified the first 139 farms to be expropriated.

Party insiders who attended the two-day lekgotla of the party's national executive committee (NEC) this week, the ANC's highest decision-making body between conferences, gave details of the legislative plans and the expropriation "guinea pig" scheme.

In addition to pushing for an amendment to section 25 of the constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation, the ANC's plans include:

  • Drafting a land records bill aimed at documenting all landowners, both formal and informal, and ensuring security of tenure;
  • Drafting a redistribution bill that would provide a framework for deciding who gets priority access to land once the reform programme rolls out; and
  • Amending the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act to recognise those who have lived on a property for three years or more as de facto owners who cannot be dispossessed without their consent.

Party members at the lekgotla are said to have wanted the process of passing and implementing the Expropriation Bill expedited.

Once section 25 of the constitution has been amended, the bill can be changed to allow for expropriation without compensation, effectively doing away with the willing buyer, willing seller principle.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday night that the ANC would support the amendment of section 25 even though parliament's public consultation process has not been completed.

The meeting was told that the department of rural development & land reform had identified 139 farms across the country that would serve as test cases.

Details about these farms, including whether they are currently occupied or productive, could not be established.

There are also moves to prioritise rapid land releases for urban housing across the country. These plans are all expected to be carried out before the end of December.

NEC member Ronald Lamola confirmed that the party had adopted an implementation plan at the lekgotla.

"We said we will take a multipronged approach to land. We don't know when the process for amendment will be finalised," Lamola said.

"And it's not a given that when we put the amendment to parliament, we will get a two-thirds majority vote. We will continue to expropriate land this way, and the parliamentary process for a constitutional amendment for expropriation without compensation will run parallel."

He said the department of rural development had selected the 139 expropriation targets after the ANC gave it a "political mandate" to test the principles currently in the constitution. He declined to elaborate on the status of the farms.

According to insiders privy to the discussions, ANC members of the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights conceded that as the constitution stands, the state was already able to expropriate land without compensation if it so wished.

Farmers' organisation Agri SA called Ramaphosa's announcement this week "premature".


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