OPINION

Expropriation Bill does little to protect citizens - Anchen Dreyer

MP says property owners may be forced to vacate their land before they have received compensation

Expropriation Bill does not protect citizens from government incompetence 

23 February 2016

The Expropriation Bill has been a highly contentious bill, one which we have ultimately decided to oppose. 

In principle the idea of an expropriation bill is something we do not oppose, as this is mandated by the Constitution as set out in Section 25 thereof, which states ‘’property may be expropriated only in terms of a law of general application, for the public purpose or in the public interest and subject to compensation’’.  

However, in its current form we cannot allow it to be passed. The bill does not go far enough to protect all citizens from a power-hungry government, who would have the potential to abuse the right to expropriate to the detriment of the economy and all South Africans.

There are many aspects of the bill which are of major concern to us. 

Of particular concern are the mechanisms through which compensation is determined. In its current form the bill ensures that specific circumstances are considered when determining the amount of compensation. However, the bill is silent on who determines the nature and extent of these considerations. 

It appears as if it is the Expropriating Authority who will ultimately determine the considerations, which are among others: the market value, the history of the acquisition and use of the property. The question then arises whether the Expropriating Authority has the adequate skills to accurately and fairly determine the aforementioned considerations. We suspect not and this would surely lead to property owners being financially prejudiced. 

Furthermore, another major concern is the timing of when the right of possession passes. As it currently stands the right of possession passes on the date stated in the notice of expropriation. In theory one should receive compensation prior to this date, so that the property owner has sufficient finances to find alternative accommodation, which is simply logical and fair.

However, there is no provision to ensure that those who are losing their property are paid compensation within a reasonable period prior to the State taking control of the property. This will inevitably lead to instances where property owners are obliged to vacate their land but have not yet been paid their compensation and thus they are unable to finance alternative accommodation. 

These are but a few of the multitude of concerns we have with the bill in its current form. 

If the bill is passed by this house in its current form this will have a detrimental effect on the economy. It is essential that all citizens know that their property rights are secure. Moreover it is crucial for foreign investment that property rights are secure. Without this knowledge South Africa will no longer remain a desirable destination for foreign investment.

If the ANC-led government was serious about growing the economy and creating jobs they would have no other choice but to send the expropriation bill back to the drawing board so that an adequate balance is met between the rights of property owners and the government’s right to expropriate property, in the public interest for a public purpose and upon just and equitable compensation.

Statement issued by Anchen Dreyer MP, DA Caucus Chairperson, 23 February 2016