Two of South Africa’s powerful organised agriculture bodies, Agriculture Business Chamber and Agri SA, have heavily criticised recent attempts by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to usurp the expropriation of land without compensation debate.
“The proposal regarding state custodianship is absolutely frightening. It will send a shock wave through the agricultural sector” commented Willem de Chavonnes Vrugt, chair of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Land.
Ad Hoc Committee on the amendment of section 25 stoked the fires when it presented a revised draft which calls for a state custodianship of land as a natural resource, the removal of the 1913 cut-off date for land restitution claims and removing the requirement that nil compensation must be sanctioned by a court process.
John Purchase, Chief Executive Officer of Agricultural Business Chamber said the proposals presented were a huge cause for concern.
“Responsible analysts and investors have operated on the assumption that the committee will stay within its mandate to ‘make explicit what is implicit’ in the Constitution. These latest proposals bear little resemblance to the Bill that was passed for comment and creates renewed uncertainty for the business community” he said.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) supported the drafts saying it will widen the scope of the Bill, ‘providing for expropriation without compensation for a public purpose or in the public interest’ and supported recommendations to remove the June 1913 cut-off date for restitution and redress in section 25(7).
Seemingly, the collapse of the draft report was sparked by proposals to open up land claims prior to 1913.
“To reopen the process prior to 1913 will only add to an already impossible burden carried by the Restitution Commission. Through initiatives such as blended finance and the recommendations emanating from the Presidential Advisory Panel, the state and private sector has been working hard towards simplified solutions that will accelerate the pace of land reform,” said Purchase.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said the political wrangling over the report was caused by ongoing attempt by the ANC/EFF to ‘exclude, or minimise the role of the courts, in adjudicating land expropriation cases.’
“The DA will do whatever it takes to prevent this, as it will push South Africa into the abyss, destroying what is left of our economy by deterring investment, destroying prospects for growth, and driving millions more people into extreme poverty” it said in a statement.
The rupture over the report necessitated for the Committee Chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga to seek an extension off 60 days based on EFF’s submissions.
“We will further request a special sitting of the National Assembly once we have concluded our work in order to deal with this matter. Our people have been waiting very long for this and we cannot delay it unnecessarily.”
Agri SA said it was in the process of seeking legal advice on the latest proposals and would oppose these “proposals with everything in its power.”