We  have only until February 10 to object to the Expropriation Bill. While we do need a new expropriation act, as we have to provide for the constitutional imperative of expropriation in the public interest, this bill is flawed in the following respects:

Firstly, public interest should be defined as redress in favour of individuals or groups. With the present bill the state can merely retain expropriated land and improvements. That would not offer redress: land was never taken from a  government — it was, over centuries, taken from black individuals and communities. Any restoration should therefore be in favour of disadvantaged individuals and communities.

Secondly, as the bill reads, recourse to the courts is provided where there are disputes as to the price. Such recourse should be extended to whether the expropriation is indeed in the public interest (as defined above). This would recognise that expropriation must meet a proper public interest test, and would reduce the danger of the state abusing expropriation to fund the ANC’s patronage machine. The interests of the ANC and the public interest should never be equated.

Thirdly, there is a fatal flaw in the bill: payment is to be effected by the state only after ownership has passed to the state. It should be provided that payment takes place on transfer of ownership. At present the erstwhile owner has no recourse where the state simply fails to pay, other than applying for a court order. If the state has no money, this would be an academic exercise.

We do need a new bill. We don’t need these flaws.

Willem Cronje
Cape Town

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