The Free Market Foundation's submission on the Expropriation Bill 2013


Secure property rights represent one of the most important requirements for the protection of both economic freedom and civil liberties.

South Africa’s “land acts” are often regarded as the cornerstone of apartheid, the aspect of South Africa’s “crime against humanity” that made the biggest single contribution to psychological, political and material dispossession of black South Africans. The “land question” remains one of the most problematic and conflict-provoking aspects of post-apartheid South Africa. The “land debate” consists primarily of an acrimonious discourse about land redistribution from whites to blacks, which is so overpowering that scant attention is paid to other aspects that have greater potential for black economic empowerment.

Black South Africans constitute 80% of the population and live primarily on urban “plots” which they hold under a range of limited forms of tenure. The balance live on plots or farms in rural “tribal” areas (formerly “homelands”), also under a range of forms of tribal tenure. Around 3.4 million black families have been housed in RDP houses where pre-emptive clauses distinguish their ownership from that of whites. A small but growing number of blacks live in historically “white” areas.

Nineteen years after transition to predominantly black rule, most black South Africans still live under the legislative progeny of the Land Acts.

Additionally, the present regime inherited the massive loot of the apartheid government in the form of extensive government-owned land. This land is unutilised or underutilised, and, therefore, is readily available for redistribution to landless blacks.

The FMF proposes that:

  1. All black occupied council-owned urban plots be converted to full ownership (“freehold”).
  2. Superfluous government land be redistributed to the victims of apartheid as a substantial once-off compensation for the crime of apartheid.
  3. Pre-emptive clauses be removed from existing and future RDP titles.
  4. In tribal areas, communities be allowed to grant private title over homesteads while maintaining communal rights over arable land.
  5. The Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act, 70 of 1970 be repealed because it would make it easier for poor individuals to finance smaller, more affordable plots of land. Furthermore, lowering the statutory costs of subdividing and transacting farmland would allow commercial banks to finance lower income individuals’ applications.

Note: The Constitution and legislative provisions relating to the expropriation of land adequately deal with this issue and should not be changed. The purpose of the proposed change is obviously intended to reduce the cost of expropriations and impose the difference between the real value of the land and the amount to be paid in terms of the proposed legislation as an ad hoc tax on the unfortunate land owner. There is no economic or legal justification for taking such an action.


There are better alternatives for dealing with the deprivation of land and the question of poverty than taking land from productive farmers in the manner envisaged. The proposals incorporated in this document describe some of those alternatives.

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