New proposals on property rights prove land expropriation will be tightly controlled

The new proposals on property rights and land expropriation make it clear that the process will be tightly controlled and this will go a long way to eliminate fears of disorder, says the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In spite of this, there are still concerns about expropriation without compensation even if it takes place on a limited scale.

Mr Geoff Jacobs, President of the Chamber, said he was pleased to note that the panel of experts agreed that the reasons for the slow pace of land reform were related to administration failures and better processes were needed rather than dangerous short cuts.

“We are particularly pleased that measures will be put in place to limit corruption and ensure that redistributed land goes to those who work for it and not to a new elite.”

Also pleasing was the recommendation that land owned by State entities could be expropriated without compensation. “This is particularly important in a place like Cape Town where we have extensive tracts of underused military land. It also makes sense because it will relieve the Defence Force of the maintenance costs.”

One of the main concerns was the expropriation of land held purely for speculative purposes. “The issue here is who makes the decision? The owner may well have bought the land to provide for future expansion but his project is now on hold because of a sluggish economy. Officials may argue that this is just an excuse and that the land should be expropriated without compensation. How will the decision be made and by whom?”

Mr Jacobs said there was also a potential problem with “abandoned buildings” in cities. These may well be buildings hijacked by criminals and were only abandoned by the owner because he failed to get the necessary support from the country’s law enforcement agencies. Once again this is difficult territory and the original owner may have right on his side.

“The report still has to be turned into legislation and we would like to see proper appeal processes built in as well as access to the courts to ensure that property rights are fully protected,” Mr Jacobs said.