Residents build shacks on a piece of land in Ezibeleni. Picture: SIMTEMBILE MGIDI
Residents build shacks on a piece of land in Ezibeleni. Picture: SIMTEMBILE MGIDI

In "La-la land?" (Features, August 1-7), Claudi Mailovich joins a chorus of voices depicting the report from the presidential advisory panel on land reform & agriculture as providing at least some of the certainty lacking as a result of the raucous "debate" over SA’s land politics.

This is debatable. As Mailovich notes, the report is not binding; it presents a set of ideas that the government may choose to implement, or ignore.

On the vexed and investment-killing issue of expropriation without compensation, the report does not spell out "exactly" the conditions under which it will take place. Rather, it lists 10 such conditions (as opposed to five in the Expropriation Bill), while stating that "nil" compensation is "not limited to" these.

More seriously, the cumulative impact of the report’s recommendation would be to expand the powers and discretion for the government to take property, directly or indirectly — constitutional amendments, expropriation, land ceilings, "punitive" taxes and so on.

It is quite possible that the report’s specific recommendations might be ignored but that its overall thrust is invoked as justification for "comprehensive" or "radical" action — perhaps with a view to the nationalisation of all land, an option publicly endorsed by some within the ruling party and the government.

The report makes it clear that the threats to property rights remain very much alive; and it does little to provide clarity for planning around this.

The deleterious effect of this situation on SA’s economy can only be expected to grind on.

Terence Corrigan
Institute of Race Relations

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