South African landlords worry over land reform debate

The South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) has reacted with a sting to the renewed debate on land reform as resulting from the ANC policy conference and the release of a green paper.

Recommendations coming out of the ANC policy conference suggest the ruling party has resolved to move away from willing seller will buyer principle on addressing redistribution of land and the green paper released this week is confirming this. It has been clear that the ANC is headed for a collision course with the private sector and the general defenders of market fundamentalism.

In a statement SAPOA said the tone of the debate continues to fuel uncertainties in the property industry.

SAPOA CEO Neil Gopal said the association “supports a land reform process that is a win-win scenario, in which the rights of present and future landowners are protected. A key challenge facing South Africans is how to reverse the racial inequalities in land resulting from our colonial past and the violent dispossession of indigenous people of their land. We need more clarity and debate on the factors responsible for the slow pace of land reform. Aren’t there fundamental contradictions between the protection of private property, the willing buyer / willing seller principle and the property clause in the SA Constitution?”

“We understand that the country cannot afford to protect private property with such zeal that it entrenches privilege. This is a recipe for instability. The guarantee of private ownership and the need to address the ills of the past are fundamental to a stable democracy,” added Gopal.

SAPOA said the proposed establishment of the Land Management Commission and the associated Land Management Board and Office of the Valuer-General is infringing on the jurisdiction of the South African courts. These institutions proposed in the green paper to determining the amount of compensation payable on the expropriation of land to decide whether title to land should be ‘invalidated’, respectively. SAPOA said this was the jurisdiction of the courts.

“The Constitution of South Africa allows our courts to act in accordance with constitutional principles and provisions and we must have some level of confidence in this,” said Gopal.

“The amount of the compensation and the time and manner of payment must be just and equitable, reflecting an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected, having regard to all relevant circumstances.”

He said Section 25 protects private property while also setting out the context in which land can be expropriated under the auspices of public interests. If the Constitution clearly highlights this important matter, why then should South Africa have a Land Management Commission doing the same?

“South Africa must be a nation that recognises a need for land reform and that accepts that such must be done being cognisant of property rights and a need for a thriving and competitive economy,” said Gopal.



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