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Land reform bill could affect food and jobs

Source: Financial Mail, Shannon Sherry
 Published: 4 July 2013
Content Type: Article
Country Focus: South Africa

A trio of bills aimed at speeding up land reform in SA would, if adopted, undermine food security and the constitution and cost thousands of jobs, according to SA Institute of Race Relations head researcher Anthea Jeffery.

Jeffery said at a briefing held by the Free Market Foundation that the Expropriation Bill, which extends the state’s power to expropriate property, might be unconstitutional for three reasons. It undermines rights of access to court for all but the few who can afford it; allows expropriation before the state has met all the constitutional requirements; and undermines the requirement of obtaining a court order before eviction where the property includes a person’s home.

Jeffery says the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, which among other things seeks to reopen land claims, will create 20 years of uncertainty over title. “The process has been dogged by problems, including the inflation of claims and the lodging of false ones, coupled with corruption and ineptitude on the part of officials,” she says. “Government has spent billions in taxpayers’ money to take between 3,5mha and 6,3mha of farmland out of production, costing thousands of jobs and billions more in lost revenue.” She predicts more land “dying in the hands of the poor” if the bill is passed. “[More] transferred farms are likely to cease production, terminating many existing farming jobs and undermining SA’s food security.”

The Property Valuation Bill, she says, “seems unconstitutional on various grounds”. It gives the valuer-general sole power to decide on the value of property to be expropriated and has a set of factors differing from those in the Expropriation Act of 1975 to decide on compensation for expropriated land. While it bases compensation on market value, it takes account of the use of the land, its acquisition history, the state’s role in prior funding and the purpose of expropriation.

Agri SA president Johannes Möller is concerned about the bill giving expropriation powers to many institutions other than the public works minister, as was previously the case. He says the bill is an improvement on the 2008 version in some ways but it remains a concern that expropriation can take place before landowners are paid. “You have recourse to the courts but lots of litigation will be problematic and very expensive.”

Source: Financial Mail, Shannon Sherry

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