Parliament, Wednesday, 25 August 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure was informed that the lack of state capacity and support are major weaknesses in the drive to transform South Africa’s land situation. The committee concluded the Northern Cape public hearings on the Expropriation Bill in Kimberley, where a majority of residents supported the Bill.
Those against the Bill highlighted the failure of the land redistribution programme as an illustration of the lack of state capacity to transform the land ownership. There was a view that the state, in its short-sighted drive to redistribute land, did not empower beneficiaries with the skills and post-redistribution support necessary to ensure success. Moreover, the title deeds backlog is also evidence, they said, that expropriation is a ploy to ensure state custodianship of property, which threatens individual rights enshrined in the constitution.
The ambiguity of the “public purpose or public interest” provision of the Bill was also underlined as a reason to reject the Bill, because it opened up the possibility for the law to be abused. Furthermore, questions were raised about the state’s ability to absorb debt taken by property owners, especially in the context of the increasing unemployment and shrinking tax base.
Despite opposition to the Bill, some people raised the opportunity of using state land to drive transformation. This, they said, would be ideal to achieve a balance between what South Africa needs and wants. This view was premised on the idea that food security and economic stability are critical, especially in the context of South Africa’s levels of poverty and unemployment, and which have been exacerbated by Covid-19.
Those in support of the Bill highlighted the need for public interest property development initiatives that are critical in ensuring inclusive development. Participants highlighted that expropriation will empower the state to develop previously underutilised areas. Also, those in support said it will empower the state to make land available for economic enterprise, especially for the youth in the fight against unemployment.
There was also a view that the Bill would allow the use of land as a tool to unlock economic opportunities. Those that supported the Bill also called for the capacitation of the state to ensure post-settlement support to prevent unproductive use of land.
Support for the Bill was also based on the need for restitution for those that suffered dispossession under colonialism and apartheid. Supporters said the Expropriation Bill could be a tool to speed up the land redistribution programme, which has stalled.
Furthermore, the need to ensure equality among all South Africans is reason enough to pass the Bill, supporters said. They were critical of the current status quo where individuals own large tracks of land while the majority have little. This, they believe, will be resolved through the passing of the Expropriation Bill.
The need for recognition of the Khoi-San nation as first and rightful owners of the land was also motivation for support of the Bill.
The committee will now move to the Free State, which is the last province the committee will visit to solicit public views. “We are almost at the end of the physical public hearings programme, which will be followed by a process of oral submissions to garner further comments on the bill from organisations and individuals. We do this to ensure that the processing of the Bill incorporates the views of the people,” said Ms Nolitha Ntobongwana, the Chairperson of the committee.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC WORKS AND INFRASTRUCTURE, MS NOLITHA NTOBONGWANA
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