The extension of the deadline for public comment on the Expropriation Bill to February 28 is to be welcomed. The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has long warned that the implications of this legislation — along with other elements of the push to expand state power to take people’s property — are so extensive and dire that, at the very least, they require a thorough process of debate and input so that the public understands its consequences.

Affording the public a little more time to comment goes some small way to addressing this. The IRR is proud that its work contributed to the extension. But much more needs to be done. The Expropriation Bill represents a grave danger to every property holder and every aspirant property holder in the country. It skews the expropriation process decisively in favour of the state — a state that has not shown itself to be a model of probity.

By following a few simple preliminary steps to acquire the property, the state is enabled by this Bill to proceed to expropriation. Ownership and the right to possession will pass to the “expropriating authority” on the dates specified in the notice of expropriation, regardless of whether there is a dispute. Where the validity of an act of expropriation, or the compensation offered, is disputed, the owner might face the prospect of having to fight this after having lost his or her property. This will require great forbearance and deep pockets.

The Expropriation Bill represents a real threat to SA’s property rights, and its prospects. Seen in conjunction with related moves, such as the possible amendment of section 25 of the constitution, this threat may well be mortal.

To protect the future, we encourage all South Africans to make their voices heard and #KillTheBill in the coming weeks. 

Terence Corrigan
Institute of Race Relations

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