South African government on Sunday laid out conditions for when land might be confiscated without reimbursement, reported Reuters. The new bill is set to replace the current Expropriation Act of 1975 and its framework legislation on how the land would be distributed.
During a news conference, South African Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille said the new bill, which has already been submitted to the parliament, would allow land to be confiscated in certain cases if it is unused, abandoned, or poses a safety risk and that too without any reimbursement.
But the minister emphasized that compensation would also be possible and final decisions would be taken by the courts.
“The bill brings certainty to South Africans and investors because it clearly outlines how expropriation can be done,” she said.
She said the bill outlines circumstances when it may be just and equitable for nil compensation to be paid. However, it does not prescribe that nil compensation will be paid in all circumstances.
The minister added that the proposed legislation will ensure that the holders of unregistered rights in the property will be treated on an equal and procedurally fair basis in the expropriation of such property.
Land is one of the most key issues in South Africa. Most of the privately-owned land remains in white hands more than two decades after the end of apartheid. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has promised to speed up land redistribution.
According to the critics, the ANC has been too timid in redistributing land, while opponents are concerned that measures seen as confiscatory might frighten away investors.
Under the new law, the South African authorities would have to negotiate with landowners to try to reach an agreement on the acquisition of the property, before seizing it.
The government said the chief state law adviser had certified that the new bill was constitutional.