Land expropriation is back in focus. Picture: ISTOCK
Land expropriation is back in focus. Picture: ISTOCK

Something important seems to have gone entirely unremarked in your analysts’ coverage of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s economic recovery plan: a mere week before he presented it, his administration introduced a draft law that runs directly counter to the president’s intentions to stimulate economic growth and job creation.

The Expropriation Bill, gazetted on October 9, applies to all types of property and not just land, as many commentators seem to believe. It lists five circumstances under which land might be expropriated without compensation, but sneakily leaves the door open for more circumstances to be added ad libitum at a later stage.

And the expropriation procedure it specifies means that, in many cases, owners will lose their property before getting a chance to challenge the expropriation through the courts. This in effect puts legal recourse out of reach for most people, as they won’t be able to afford costly, lengthy and risky litigation, having just lost their property.

This comes against the backdrop of other significant attempts by the government to weaken property rights, including its reckless drive to modify the Bill of Rights (section 25 of the constitution, the property clause); its intention to forcibly bring the entire private health sector under government control; and its ongoing dalliance with the idea of forcing SA pension fund managers to divert funds towards less profitable projects favoured by the government.

As the president’s advisers will no doubt confirm, economies unable to attract investment are unable to grow sustainably. Without secure property rights, the president’s plan is doomed to fail.

John Endres
Institute of Race Relations

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