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COSATU welcomes the conclusion of the Parliamentary public hearings on Expropriation without Compensation
COSATU welcomes the conclusion of the Parliamentary public hearings on expropriation without compensation (Section 25 of the Constitution). We now urge Parliament's Constitutional Review Committee to move with speed, diligence and thoughtfulness in drafting its recommendations on amendments to the Expropriation Bill and Section 25 of the Constitution.
Landlessness is a national crisis in South Africa and despite government's efforts; millions of South Africans remain condemned to the brutal and inhumane squalor of informal areas. Millions of farm workers, labour tenants and their families, as well as communal land residents, especially women remain landless and without security of tenure. They remain at the mercy of farmers and traditional leaders, who can deprive them of their homes and land with little legal or state protection.
Property ownership of all types remains overwhelmingly white male dominated, and to pretend this is not so is to be dangerously delusional.
The federation supports progressive and rational constitutional and legislative amendments that will speed up land reform and restitution. This can, where needed, include expropriation without full or partial compensation. In particular, instances such as:
- Abandoned land;
- Neglected land owned by absentee landlords;
- Idle land that is needed for productive public use;
- State owned land;
- Land occupied by farm workers and labour tenants historically;
- Land who's value has been unfairly inflated due to massive state investments there or nearby;
- Land held to speculative ransom by the owner that is needed for productive use;
- Land that is offered by its owner to the state as a donation e.g. for land reform etc;
- Land that was expropriated during the apartheid or colonial eras where market value was not paid to the original owner or paid for by the current owner; and
- Land who's owner benefited from an unfair discriminatory loan during the apartheid era e.g. a farmer who was given a below market value loan and now wants market value compensation.
- Agricultural land above land ownership limits set by the Minister for Agriculture as envisaged in the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill.
COSATU urges Parliament to amend the Expropriation Bill to provide for such cases and this is should be done as soon as possible. COSATU would also support an amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution if necessary to provide legal and other clarity for all concerned. This should be done in an inclusive, mature and constitutional manner.
Whilst welcoming the ANC's commitment to tackle this crisis through amending the Expropriation Bill and if necessary Section 25, this is not sufficient to address the land crisis. The RDP housing model for cities has to be revisited. Giving families a 60 metre square plot and a single room poorly constructed RDP house is neither sustainable nor dignified. People need to be given decent sized plots upon which they can expand their RDP houses into proper homes. The state needs to ensure quality and not shoddy houses that are built by overpaid contractors.
Adequate support needs to be given to new and emerging farmers. The fact that more than half of new farmers have failed speaks volumes about the lack of support.
We expect them to compete with heavily subsidised farmers in the US, Brazil and Europe. The Land Bank needs to be better resourced to play such a role. Allocating the same amount of funding for land reform as it does for bodyguards for politicians is an indictment beyond comprehension.
Government and Parliament need to move with urgency and not lethargy to fast track and pass other long delayed key land reform legislation, e.g:
- Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill
- (reopens the post 1913 land restitution claims period for 5 years
- Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill
- (protects farm workers and their families from evictions)
- Regulation of Land Holdings Bill
- (Prohibits future foreign purchasing of agricultural land and allows government to set limits on how much agricultural land one person can own);
- (Requires Department of Agriculture approval for rezoning agricultural land to prevent municipalities from rezoning agricultural land to build shopping centres, condos etc in pursuit of higher municipal rates); and
- (Allows communal land residents the right to decide which type of governance to farm under e.g. traditional, CPA, cooperative etc).
Lastly COSATU wants to warn politicians and political parties that while the Constitution is a living document that should be amended, where necessary it cannot be used to hide the failures of government policies. Lazy, corrupt and complacent politicians have ignored the work of transforming this economy. COSATU will not turn a blind eye to those who now seek to induce us into amnesia to camouflage their failures or win quick popularity before an election.
COSATU will not allow politicians to amend the Constitution every election to distract us from their failures and shenanigans. We have already seen attempts to amend the Constitution to undermine workers' hard won rights to unionize, protest and strike.
For more information please contact Cde Matthew Parks-COSATU Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687