The South African government has reportedly released a draft Expropriation Bill for public comment. The bill in question outlines the circumstances under which the state can take over land without paying for it.
The draft legislation released on Friday stated that it may be just and equitable for no compensation to be paid when land is expropriated in the public interest.
As per the draft bill, the government can take the land without paying for it if it’s occupied or used by a labor tenant, if it’s held for purely speculative purposes, if it belongs to a state-owned enterprise and if in case the owner has abandoned it, among other circumstances., reported Bloomberg.
The bill will also give the expropriating authority a right to use any property temporarily in case of urgency for a period not exceeding 12 months. The public can submit written comments on the bill to the department of public works in the next 60 days.
The bill’s passage through parliament is separate to plans by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to make a change in the constitution in order to make it easier for the government to capture land without paying any money for it.
Notably, earlier this month, lawmakers in both chambers of parliament approved a lawmakers’ report that recommends the constitutional amendment. They will now set up another parliamentary committee to draft a bill to make the required changes.
According to the ANC, the changes in the constitution are necessary to address old racially skewed ownership patterns, but, some opposition parties and farmers’ groups are arguing that the changes will undermine property rights and deter investment.
The draft is the third version of the bill. The first version was released back in 2008. While the proposed law provides more clarity on expropriation without compensation, Agri SA, the country’s biggest farming industry lobby group, has opposed it calling out the government to further throw light on the draft’s reach and definitions urgently.
According to Agri SA, the definition of expropriation in the new bill draft is too narrow and is out of line with international trends. It also poses danger to the common public as it will give the government the right to place all kinds of restrictions on ownership without compensating the landowner.