The Expropriation Bill (2020, B23-2020) before Parliament resurrects apartheid's most obnoxious abomination, freedom for draconian officials to seize land of the poor with neither due process nor compensation. Under the Bill's apartheid precursor, virtually all "black" land was seized. It is unbelievable that anyone is considering reinstating an apartheid 'crime against humanity' and I make no apology for using such strong language. It must never again be possible!
The proposed Expropriation Bill cannot proceed through the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee because the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure failed to comply with two preconditions, namely the requirement to (a) effective public participation by affected parties, and (b) a Socio Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA).
The first and fatal flaw is that the public participation obligations under one of the most important yet least know Constitutional clauses, section 195, were not complied with, as well as a further eight other "overlooked" clauses (§1, 9, 10, 12, 25, 26, 32, 33).
Section 195, supported by various judgments, demands that affected people must be properly informed, and then encouraged and allowed adequate opportunity for participation. This is a general requirement, but because the potential victims of the Bill are overwhelmingly poor black people, their participation must be especially well-informed and effective. Without the poor being properly informed and participating fully, "there’s non-compliance with §195 and other provisions."
The FMF has provided a substantial submission on the Bill itself, but this is a different matter. The Department received 90,000 submissions, which it has clearly not considered given the sheer volume of work, time and the resources at its disposal. The Committee does not know who wanted to appear, and therefore is unable to make informed decisions.
More seriously, there has been no special effort to inform the public in general fully about the Bill's draconian provisions, let alone its extreme implications for the poor.
The public narrative misleads people, especially the poor, into believing that the Bill targets the rich to benefit of the poor. Nothing is further from the truth. Many submissions on both sides reinforcing this misconception.
The Bill proposes seizing thousands of properties with as little as "nil" compensation and without due process. Because the poor, who will lose many more properties, will lose their most valuable asset on the mere service of a notice, they will be defenceless. The rich have the wealth with which to go to court.
What is overlooked is that expropriations are decided by petty officials in hundreds of organs of state at all three levels of government for government and private purposes, including property development and mining. Properties of rich and poor are routinely expropriated by the thousand to widen roads, build schools, make parks, create graveyards, install power substations, provide infrastructure and services, open mines, develop land, establish resorts, and so on.
The government's new infrastructure programme will require substantial increases in expropriation in poor areas.
The second flaw is the absence of an obligatory SEIA, Socio Economic Impact Assessment, which must have experts quantify implications for the poor, the country in general, and unintended consequences. In the absence of this, the Bill must be referred back to the Department for full good faith compliance.
Poor people denied property rights under apartheid, are finally getting ownership thanks to our Khaya Lam programme and government initiatives. To subject them now to this law is perverse; it returns us to apartheid’s darkest days.
Leon Louw, FMF President
Publish date: 24 March 2021
The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.