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Citizenship

South Africa Withdraws Land Expropriation Bill to Clear Path for Constitutional Changes


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South Africa’s parliament has withdrawn a bill that allowed the state to make compulsory purchases of land with compensation, according to the country’s ruling African National Congress (ANC). 

Meanwhile, a review on whether or not to change the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation is still underway by the Joint Constitutional Review Committee. 

Humphrey Mmemezi, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works, said in a statement on Tuesday that the 2015 Expropriation Bill — which hadn’t yet been signed into law — would be re-introduced at a later stage, likely with new clauses, but that the committee wants to give the review on constitutional change “an opportunity.”

Mmemezi said the Portfolio Committee had seen that the review of the possible constitutional changes was reaching a conclusion, and the recommendations will be made available once concluded before the end of September. It will lead to new parliamentary processes, including legislative processes, and new directions should become clearer before the end of 2018.

“The committee is aware that this process will lead to the minister of public works re-introducing a revised Expropriation Bill that will possibly include clauses that deal with expropriation of land without compensation,” he said.

Mmemezi said the bill will give more clarity on how South Africans should deal with the land question and the property issues that today still favour the minority at the expense of the majority of South Africans, in particular black people.

White people in South Africa, who reportedly make up 9% of the population, own 72% of the farmland held by individuals, according to government figures cited by the BBC

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Mmemezi said the committee believes that, by rejecting this bill in its current form, it will avoid running a parallel process while a parliament committee is still busy with reviewing the possibility of changing the constitution. 

“The committee is happy and hopes for a better piece of legislation that will include the inputs from South Africans across the country on the land and property question,” Mmemezi said, adding that the committee had adopted a report that recommends to the National Assembly that the current Expropriation Bill be rejected. 

Mmemezi said he believes that the National Assembly may deal with this matter as soon as next week. 

Andile Mxgitama, the leader of Black First Land First (BLF), tweeted: “Looks like some members of parliament don't know that the [committee] never amends and has never amended the constitution since its inception.”

He said the committee recommends to relevant portfolio committees, and that the Portfolio Committee of Public Works is the “custodian of Section 25.”  

The ANC also tweeted that the withdrawal of the bill is in line with the 54th National Conference ANC Resolution, which calls for focus on changing the constitution to firm up the law on land redistribution and reparation. 

“A new Bill will now be explicit on expropriation of land without compensation,” it said.

Related Stories Aug. 23, 2018 Donald Trump Tweeted About Farmers in South Africa — and Sparked International Tensions

The issue of farmland redistribution has drawn international attention in the past week, after US President Donald Trump tweeted that he was monitoring “the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.” 

On Aug. 23, President Trump said he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “closely study” the land situation in South Africa, reportedly following a segment on Fox News about the country’s planned land reforms, and causing significant upset in South Africa. 

The ANC, following the tweet, met with the US embassy on Thursday last week, and said Trump’s comments were “unfortunate” and “regrettable” — adding that the tweet was based on false information. 

The official South African government Twitter account said: “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past.” 

South Africa said last month that it would go ahead with plans to amend the constitution, and allow land to be expropriated without compensation — reportedly indicating that only unused land would be at risk of seizure. 

The redistribution of land was a fundamental goal of the ANC during its efforts to counteract white-minority rule, according to the BBC. But even now, 24 years after it ended, the legacy of apartheid still lingers. 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said a programme of land redistribution is required to heal the historic “festering wound” of land dispossession and enable the transformation and development that, without which, South Africa will experience instability. 


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