Expropriation Bill will be futile without state support
25 August 2021
The Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure was informed that the lack of state capacity and support are major weaknesses in the drive to transform South Africa’s land situation. The committee concluded the Northern Cape public hearings on the Expropriation Bill in Kimberley, where a majority of residents supported the Bill.
Those against the Bill highlighted the failure of the land redistribution programme as an illustration of the lack of state capacity to transform the land ownership. There was a view that the state, in its short-sighted drive to redistribute land, did not empower beneficiaries with the skills and post-redistribution support necessary to ensure success. Moreover, the title deeds backlog is also evidence, they said, that expropriation is a ploy to ensure state custodianship of property, which threatens individual rights enshrined in the constitution.
The ambiguity of the “public purpose or public interest” provision of the Bill was also underlined as a reason to reject the Bill, because it opened up the possibility for the law to be abused. Furthermore, questions were raised about the state’s ability to absorb debt taken by property owners, especially in the context of the increasing unemployment and shrinking tax base.
Despite opposition to the Bill, some people raised the opportunity of using state land to drive transformation. This, they said, would be ideal to achieve a balance between what South Africa needs and wants. This view was premised on the idea that food security and economic stability are critical, especially in the context of South Africa’s levels of poverty and unemployment, and which have been exacerbated by Covid-19.