Zuma follows Mugabe – passes law to seize land and give to #SouthAfrica blacks

South Africa’s lower house has passed a law that will allow government to seize land for redistribution to landless people to address skewed historical ownership patterns but the move is stoking fresh political disputes in the country.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) dominated National Council of Provinces (NCOP) passed the amended Expropriation Bill much to the chagrin of opposition parties including the main Democratic Alliance (DA) and Freedom Front Plus (FF+).

This Bill is not replacing the need and commitment by this administration for consultation

Envisaged to settle the skewed ownership of land between blacks and whites, the Bill seeks to align the law with South Africa’s constitution, in particular clauses on equality, property, administrative action and extension of the purpose for expropriation to include public interest.

NCOP’s select committee on economic and business development chairperson Bongotlo Nthebe said the Bill was ‘consistent’ with the country’s constitution.

Nthebe said the proposed law will ensure that land – which is much needed for infrastructural projects – was availed without bringing about constitutional challenges from those who are dispossessed.

“This Bill is not replacing the need and commitment by this administration for consultation,” Nthebe said. “Provinces see the value and importance of a Bill such as this one, given the country’s historical realities and our nation’s developmental needs.”

However, DA’s Leona Kleynhans said the public participation process was flawed, with changes to dates and venues made, which ultimately resulted some submissions being ignored.

Kleynhans said some clauses in the Bill were unconstitutional and amendments were proposed through several submissions that were ignored by parliamentary commitees.

President Jacob Zuma is expected to sign the Bill into law soon.

The ANC has been under pressure to speed up its agrarian reforms in a country where access to land remains a thorny issue. Recent research by land activists showed that in 1994, as a result of colonial dispossession and apartheid, 87 percent of South African land was owned by whites and only 13 percent by blacks.

By 2012, post-apartheid land reform had seen the transfer of 7.95 million hectares, the equivalent of 7.5 percent of formerly white-owned land, to blacks.

South Africa’s expropriation laws were passed as a statute in June 1975.

Under the laws, expropriation entails the government purchasing movable and immovable property from a natural and/or juristic person for a public purpose, which was, prior to its recent amendment, defined to mean “for the administration of any law”.

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