The suggestion that “expropriation without compensation” is fundamentally a land reform measure is incorrect and misleading (“Land expropriation: ANC, EFF at loggerheads while MPs race deadline on constitution”, May 31). Property is not limited to land — this is clear from the constitution — and any move to expand the state’s power over property will be felt in respect of other property as well.

In fact, the department of public works recently called for the constitutional amendment to make explicit that expropriation without compensation can be applied to all assets.

The implications are extensive. Prof Simon Nemutandani of the Health Professions Council of SA recently recommended to parliament that reserves held by medical aid schemes should be requisitioned to capitalise the proposed National Health Insurance: “all assets under the control of the medical schemes must be taken over by the NHI”.

This would in effect be an act of expropriation, worth something in the region of R90bn, and would presumably rely on the pending constitutional and legislative changes to do so — and quite possibly other changes to come.

Medical funds, pensions, commercial ventures — even such things as artworks — could all find themselves vulnerable in one way or another. Indeed, SA’s economic portfolio contains much that is far more valuable, and tempting, than land.

Business and the media need to understand this.

Terence Corrigan
Institute of Race Relations

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