Civil society groups threaten to challenge Expropriation Bill

MP says the uncertainty surrounding land expropriation without compensation had already impacted investment and growth in the agriculture sector David Ritchie African News Agency (ANA Archives)

MP says the uncertainty surrounding land expropriation without compensation had already impacted investment and growth in the agriculture sector David Ritchie African News Agency (ANA Archives)

Published May 4, 2024


INDEPENDENT organisations have become the latest voices to join opposition parties in requesting President Cyril Ramaphosa not to sign the highly-contested Expropriation Bill.

On March 24, the National Assembly approved the Expropriation Bill as amended by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) following a vote of 205 in favour and 108 against.

However, despite the resolution by the governing party, a number of voices have opposed the passing of the bill, especially the DA, Freedom Front Plus as well as the IFP, which have vowed to take it to the Constitutional Court to challenge the bill's constitutionality.

The DA accused the governing ANC of attempting to “bulldoze” the bill as a last-ditch effort to cobble votes together in the run-up to the national and provincial elections on May 29.

The party’s Tim Brauteseth said the bill amounted to nothing more than introducing expropriation without compensation through the legislative backdoor by passing it in the NCOP with the ANC in full support.

The IFP on the other hand said while it supported the expropriation bill, it differed in the way it was being followed, as the party believed that those who owned land must be compensated if the state deemed there were grounds for expropriation.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) , the latest organisation to speak against the bill, petitioned Ramaphosa not to sign the Expropriation Bill citing several concerns which rendered the bill unconstitutional.

According to the IRR there had been grave flaws in the public participation process and constitutional inconsistencies that Parliament ought to reconcile before placing the bill before the president.

Makone Maja, IRR campaign manager, said the Expropriation Bill was rushed through Parliament and hastily sent to Ramaphosa for signing.

Maja explained how Parliament had on the one hand barely scraped the surface of the tens of thousands of submissions made during the public hearings on this piece of legislation, and neither did it perform a thorough Socio-Economic Impact Assessment System (SEIAS) test to assess the potential economic harm South Africa would suffer if the bill was enacted.

Said Maja: “This leaves the public, including businesses and investors who may be affected, ill-informed about the true cost of the legislation.

“The bill is unconstitutional in its inconsistency on issues such as the contents of the notice of expropriation related to when mediation and court intervention may arise, and it remains unclear on the open-ended list of land that can be expropriated without compensation and whether this includes improvements made on the land or not. This too is unconstitutional on the basis of vagueness.”

Maja added: “‘The bill escalates the undermining of the rule of law by granting the government powers to seize land. It takes a wrecking ball to property rights, the pain of which will be felt by the most vulnerable among us.

“Investments and capital flow towards countries that are welcoming to them, while insecure property rights chase them away.”

Maja said the institute hoped the president would send the bill back to the National Assembly to amend legal requirements, as failure to address concerns and proceeding with it as it stood would result in them looking to take legal action and galvanise the support of civil society.

The FW de Klerk Foundation also pleaded with Ramaphosa to send the bill back. It cited concerns surrounding the procedural irregularities in its passing through the NCOP.

Ismail Joosub, the FW de Klerk Foundation’s legal officer, said mandates for voting on the bill were hastily assembled, with certain provinces like Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo bypassing full provincial legislature involvement.

Joosub added that instead, decisions were made by legislative committees, effectively sidelining the voices of citizens and their elected representatives.

“The foundation emphasises the urgent need for a transparent and accountable legislative process that upholds constitutional principles and safeguards property rights. Any deviation from these principles risks plunging South Africa into economic turmoil and exacerbating social inequality,” Joosub said.

Saturday Star