The following is a reaction to a Right of Reply penned by the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, entitled Like it or not, the 2020 Expropriation Bill remains true to the Constitution
Patricia de Lille, Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, derides me as a ‘tone-deaf whiner’ and an ‘enemy of land reform’ for pointing out the unconstitutionality and sheer economic folly of the current Expropriation Bill.
She also claims that the IRR and other critics of the Bill are ‘twisting the material facts’, ‘distorting the truth’, and ‘perpetuating lies’, whereas her response is based on ‘facts, truth, and honesty’. But her falsehoods are so pervasive that it’s hard to unpack them all.
Two key points must, however, be made. First, the Bill is even more unconstitutional than the flawed Expropriation Act of 1975 it is intended to replace.
Among other things:
The ‘nil’ compensation provisions conflict with the rule of law, the ‘supremacy’ of which is guaranteed by the Constitution’s founding provisions; while
The procedures for expropriation are so heavily skewed in favour of the state that they contradict not only the property clause but also many other constitutional rights.
Second, the Bill is not a land reform measure, as De Lille again pretends, as the property it covers is ‘not limited to land’.
Nor can it overcome the key barriers to success in land reform, which have little to do with land acquisition costs. Instead, the real challenges (as the High Level Panel of Parliament reported in 2017) lie in poor skills, inefficiency, corruption, ‘elite capture’, and the government’s policy of denying individual land ownership to emergent farmers.
Overall, the Bill is intended to make expropriation so quick and cheap for the government that it will soon become the favoured means of land acquisition for hundreds of cash-strapped organs of state.
De Lille claims that ‘a democratic government’ would never ‘take homes and business premises away from people’, while ‘no court would agree to this either’.
But most expropriations will in practice proceed without the agreement of the courts, if only because the Bill seeks to put the onus of proof in any litigation on the expropriated owner. This will so increase the likely costs of going to court that only the very wealthy will be able to risk it.
And why would the SACP/ANC government want to take the homes and business premises of black and white South Africans? Clearly, the answer lies in both parties’ strong ideological commitment to a national democratic revolution (NDR).
The NDR aims at a socialist future – and sees the ‘elimination’ of existing property relations as the key to this objective.
- Anthea Jeffery is head of policy research at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a liberal think tank that promotes political and economic freedom