IRR warns of risk of land nationalisation

ANC's position on Section 25 would grant enormous latitude for seizures

IRR warns of risk of land nationalisation

5 August 2021

The Institute of Race Relations warns that while the drive for Expropriation without Compensation remains very much alive, a potent new threat is the addition of custodianship of “certain” land and improvements, a notion tantamount to land nationalisation, according to the justice minister. This poses a grave danger to the country’s future prospects. 

The IRR has noted media reports concerning an impasse between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) over the wording of the amendment of Section 25, with the ANC declining to meet the EFF’s demand for a constitutional requirement that “all” land be nationalised.

It has also noted the subsequent remarks by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola decrying the EFF’s position as amounting to total nationalisation. On the latter point he is correct, and any custodial taking would place the control and management of land under the control of a state whose capacity to do so effectively and with integrity is questionable to say the least.

While the minister’s remarks would seem to represent a rejection of custodianship, it is important to note that this is an idea that has emerged repeatedly from within the ANC and the state. It was, for example, one of the recommendations of the 2017 land audit report.

Indeed, the ANC’s position on the constitutional amendment – that “certain” land and improvements must be held in state custodianship – would grant enormous latitude for seizures. “Certain” might be defined as all agricultural land, all rural land or all privately owned land, for instance.

And while we agree with Minister Lamola that there is little demand on the part of South Africa’s people to have their landholdings in the hands of the state, it is important to point out that it is official policy not to transfer ownership to land redistribution beneficiaries, but to provide them with leases. Title deeds have been viewed with great scepticism. Indeed, during the original parliamentary debate on the amendment of Section 25 in February 2018, Minister Gugile Nkwinti was forthright that title deeds were not on the table.

Minister Lamola’s words do not point to an actual change in policy.

It is the view of the IRR that the positions of the ANC and EFF are not in fact substantively different. Both envisage highly statist land management, are supportive of land nationalisation in principle, and both propose courses of action that would be profoundly unsettling to property owners and those who aspire to owning property.

South Africans should be aware of this. The EWC drive is being pursued on multiple fronts – both through the constitutional amendment and through the Expropriation Bill. A great deal of political capital has been invested by the government and ANC in introducing it.

The new version of the 18th Constitutional Amendment attacking property rights calls for a renewed fightback. The deadline for comment is 13 August.

We call on South Africans to join us in our campaign to protect our property rights and the civil liberties on which they depend, and help save the economy. Even if you signed up to oppose EWC before, it is very important that you raise your objections again now.

Statement issued by Terence Corrigan, IRR Project Manager, 5 August 2021