South Africa’s house of parliament passed a land expropriation bill on Tuesday. The bill allows the government to take/make use of privately owned lands not just for public use such as roads but also for “public interest”. The government plans to use this as an atonement for racial issues regarding land ownership.
During Apartheid, blacks were marginalized in land ownership, with the whites owning more lands than Blacks. This was supported legally, as there were laws that stated just how much land a black South African should own.
22 years post apartheid, things haven’t really changed, most lands still remain in white hands. About 8 million hectares (20 million acres) have been transferred to black owners since apartheid. This is equal to 8 to 10 percent of the land in white hands in 1994.
Although the bill does not adjudicate a land grab, it however does not depend on the willingness of the land owner to sell. The state pays for the land at a price that’s determined by the government arbitrator (office of the Valuer-General) and eventually take it. The owner of the land can dispute the price/compensation in a court of law.
All opposition parties including the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Freedom Front Plus and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) opposed the bill, but the major party African National Congress (ANC) won, with 202 members for the bill while 88 were against it. The ANC believes the bill “will intensify the land reform programme and bring about fair access to South Africa’s land, natural resources and food security.”
Although the bill was passed by the main house of parliament, it still needs to be passed by the other house of parliament and signed into law by the President, Jacob Zuma.