New expropriation laws could harm poor blacks the most, parliament hears

Traditional leaders accuse parliament of pussy-footing on the land question, saying land must be returned to rightful owners or 'we will have no choice but to stand up and fight'

Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana of Contralesa says if the land is not returned to its rightful owners, there will be war. Picture: 123RF/KOSTIC DUSAN
Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana of Contralesa says if the land is not returned to its rightful owners, there will be war. Picture: 123RF/KOSTIC DUSAN
Image: Picture: 123RF/KOSTIC DUSAN

The possible amendment of expropriation laws would bring about instability, with the poorest most likely to be affected, the Banking Association of SA (Basa) told parliament on Wednesday.

The portfolio committee on public works and infrastructure heard oral submissions on the expropriation bill, where stakeholders expressed a range of views.

Dr Yacoob Abba Omar of Basa said improved land ownership patterns were imperative for the country — but he argued it was unnecessary to amend the constitution to give effect to this.

“We must ensure that expropriation at below market value or even at nil compensation does not negatively affect on local and international investor confidence or increase the plight of the poor, either because of job losses, poor economic growth or, more importantly, increased levels of food insecurity caused by the collapse of food production.

“If this were to happen, we would all suffer, and mostly the poor, who we are hoping will benefit from a considered land reform programme. The South African economy can ill-afford banking sector and country instability, brought on by the erosion of private property rights. Rather, the state needs to prioritise land reform/agricultural sector transformation and realign its resources accordingly,” said Omar.

Annelize Crosby of Agri SA said there was a need for transformation within the agricultural sector, which the organisation supported. This should, however, not be done at the expense of farmers.

“We acknowledge that the dispossession of land has caused emotional wounds that are still with us today, and also a great deal of  physical and physiological hardship for those people who had to endure it. We also recognise that as a society we still face these challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment,” she said.

Crosby highlighted the contribution made by Agri SA members during the pandemic. She said their members were large employers who created close to a million jobs, managed to provide the country with food security and also embarked on various food parcel programmes for disadvantaged communities.

“An important point that we want to make is that the farmers — our members — cannot be held solely responsible for historical events, and they cannot be required to bear the burden of addressing the apartheid dispossession,” she said.

Crosby said the main concern the organisation had with the amendment was the definition of expropriation, which she said was too narrow.

Dr Anthea Jeffery, of the Institute of Race Relations, expressed similar sentiments, arguing that there had been a need for a better bill that would be in line with the constitution. She said the current bill had numerous defects.  

“It fixes two defects in the Expropriation Act of 1975, but leaves the biggest one untouched. It still allows [a] Expropriating Authority (EA), after completing some preliminary steps, to take ownership and possession of land and other property by serving a notice of expropriation by the owner ... unfortunately, it cannot improve land reform.

“Our concern is that bill will harm the very many black South Africans who finally do own houses. We put that total at about 7.8 million. This is a wonderful advance from the period during the apartheid era where black people were barred from purchasing land and houses in the city. Often, the title [deed] that black South Africans have is informal and incomplete, so the biggest need is that we should be giving title deeds to all these people who already informally own homes so that they can have full benefit from them,” said Jeffery.

Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa) told the committee that land needed to be returned to its rightful owners, and warned that if this did not happen there would be war.

“The bill before you is headed in the right direction, but we are making a point that the land must be returned to its rightful owners; that the land must be administered appropriately.

“Parliament is still talking, pussy-footing on this land question. We can see that there is really a trend to suppress whatever we're standing for. As far as we are concerned, all the houses in Contralesa agree that, no, if the government is not coming to the party, we will have no choice but to stand up and fight.

“We hope, therefore, that the views are going to be taken care of so that in the end we are really living happily together in SA,” added Nonkonyana.  

The oral submissions were expected to resume on Thursday.

TimesLIVE


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