President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his state of the nation address at parliament in Cape Town, February 13 2020. Picture: SUMAYA HISHAM / AFP
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his state of the nation address at parliament in Cape Town, February 13 2020. Picture: SUMAYA HISHAM / AFP

Despite concerns raised by investors, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday that government was ready to table an  expropriation bill outlining the circumstances under which expropriation of land without compensation would be permissible.

“Government stands ready — following the completion of the parliamentary process to amend section 25 of the constitution — to table an Expropriation Bill that outlines the circumstances under which expropriation of land without compensation would be permissible,” Ramaphosa said in his state of the nation address.

This is amid a raging debate about expropriation without compensation which has spooked investors. In 2018, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) adopted a contentious report that called for a constitutional amendment to make it explicit that expropriation without compensation could be used to address skewed land ownership patterns dating back to the colonial and apartheid eras.

The debate on the issue has polarised the country and cause jitters among investors, with the proposed amendment set to be challenged in court by various stakeholders and political parties.

Parliament’s ad hoc committee looking into the matter has published the draft bill to amend section 25.

The ANC recently proposed a drastic change shifting the arbitration powers from the courts to the executive in terms of compensation to be paid. The ANC’s Mathole Motshekga, who chairs parliament’s ad hoc committee on land reform, said in January that if the courts are to determine compensation “it will take another 25 or 50 years to sort out land reform”.

The committee agreed that the first round of oral public hearings will take place from February 20-24 in Limpopo and the Northern Cape.

Ramaphosa said agriculture is one of the industries with the greatest potential for growth.

“This year, we implement key recommendations of the presidential advisory Ppanel on land reform and agriculture to accelerate land redistribution, expand agricultural production and transform the industry,” the president said.

“To date, we have released 44,000 hectares of state land for the settlement of land restitution claims, and will this year release around 700,000 hectares of state land for agricultural production.”

Ramaphosa said the priority was  youth, women, people with disabilities and those who have been farming on communal land and are ready to expand their operations for training and allocation of land.

“A new beneficiary selection policy includes compulsory training for potential beneficiaries before land can be allocated to them. Because of the drought in many parts of the country, farmers lost crops and livestock and many workers have lost their livelihoods.

“Working with the Agricultural Research Council and other scientific and agricultural bodies, we have developed drought mitigation strategies that focus on developing drought-resistant seeds, planting and storing fodder, removing of invasive plants and management strategies to prevent soil degradation.”

The state has a property portfolio of more than 93,000 buildings and more than 1.9-million hectares of land under the custodianship of the department of public works.

Critics of the drive to amend section 25 of the constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation often say the government should focus on redistributing land it owns,  some of which is unaccounted for or underutilised.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za