South Africa takes a step closer to land expropriation

The inter-ministerial committee on land reform on Sunday announced that the revised Expropriation Bill was gazetted on Friday and is now subject to parliamentary processes.

The bill is part of the government’s comprehensive approach to land reform and redressing spatial inequality and improving access to services and opportunities.


Subscribe for full access to all our share and unit trust data tools, our award-winning articles, and support quality journalism in the process.

ONLY R63pm

It is set to replace the current Expropriation Act of 1975 and its framework legislation on how the land would be distributed.

Addressing the media virtually on Sunday afternoon, Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille said expropriation of property with nil compensation “is not a silver bullet”.

“It is only but one acquisition mechanism that in appropriate cases will enable land reform and redress, as agreed by the Presidential Advisory Panel Report on Land Reform and Agriculture.”

Bill is just and equitable

De Lille said the bill is meant to assist all organs of state, including the local municipalities where most of the vulnerable groups are located.

“Local, provincial and national authorities will use their legislation to expropriate in the public interest for varied reasons that seek to amongst others, promote inclusivity and access to natural resources which will benefit women, children and people with disabilities. They will have to do so in accordance with the constitutionally-compliant new Expropriation Act,” she said.

She added that one of the cornerstones of the proposed legislation is that the holders of unregistered rights in the property must be treated on an equal and procedurally fair basis in the expropriation of such property.

“The Constitution provides that compensation for expropriation must be ‘just and equitable’ having regard to all relevant circumstances.

She said that the bill outlines circumstances when it may be just and equitable for nil compensation to be paid.

“It does not prescribe that nil compensation will be paid in these circumstances. The bill provides that the amount of compensation will be determined by the courts,” De Lille said.

What the bill states re nil compensation:

  • It may be just and equitable for nil compensation to be paid where land is expropriated in the public interest, having regard to all relevant circumstances, including but not limited to where the land is not being used and the owner’s main purpose is not to develop the land or use it to generate income but to benefit from appreciation of its market value;
  • Where an organ of state holds land that it is not using for its core functions and is not reasonably likely to require the land for its future activities in that regard, and the organ of state acquired the land for no consideration;
  • Notwithstanding registration of ownership in terms of the Deeds;
  • Where an owner has abandoned the land by failing to exercise control over it; Where the market value of the land is equivalent to, or less than, the present value of direct state investment or subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the land;
  • When the nature or condition of the property poses a health, safety or physical risk to persons or other property; and
  • When a court or arbitrator determines the amount of compensation in terms of section 23 of the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act, 1996 (Act No. 3 of 1996), it may be just and equitable for nil compensation to be paid, having regard to all relevant circumstances.

De Lille read a note from Deputy President David Mabuza, who said the publication of this important bill, is a cogent indication that government is indeed at work to realise redress and fulfil the aspirations of the people to have an equitable society.

“It is a recognition of the urgency required to address the injustices of the past and restore land rights in a responsible manner, whilst ensuring that food security is maintained; that equitable spatial justice is achieved and that continuation of investment to expand our industrial base is secured,” Mabuza said.

Parliament will now follow its processes to consider the bill and every South African will have the opportunity to participate as Parliament considers, debates and consults on it.