Parliament re-establishes ad hoc committee on land reform

South African parliament
South African parliament
Image: GCIS

Parliament is forging ahead with the expropriation without compensation matter and has agreed to re-establish the ad hoc committee to look into the contentious issues.

The committee has until December 31 to conclude its work.

The ad hoc committee was unable to conclude its work, including public hearings across the country, before its initial term expired on May 31.

This means the land issue, which has polarised the country and caused jitters among investors, is unlikely to be finalised in 2020 due to restrictions on public gatherings imposed in the Covid-19 lockdown. The ad hoc committee is required to engage in extensive public consultation before making a final decision.

On Tuesday, parliament agreed to re-establish the committee with the same composition and powers as its predecessor and instructed it to incorporate in its work the proceedings and all the work of the previous committee until its term expires.  

There are fears that land expropriation without compensation, which is meant to address skewed land ownership dating back to the colonial and apartheid eras, could rattle investors and hurt South Africa’s already struggling economy.

The Banking Association SA, which represents all registered banks in the country, previously said that while it is necessary for the country to deal with land reform, it has to be done without discouraging investment.

But recently the ANC proposed a drastic change, shifting the arbitration powers from the courts to the executive in terms of compensation to be paid. Mathole Motshekga, who led the ad hoc committee,  said at the time that if the courts determined compensation “it will take another 25 or 50 years to sort out land reform”.

The matter is set to be challenged in court by various stakeholders and political parties.

On Tuesday, DA MP and parliamentary caucus chair Annelie Lotriet said: “The last thing SA can afford now, amid a pandemic and an economic crisis that has been in the making for 26 years and worsened by the lockdown, is a focus on expropriation without compensation.”

“Jobs are being lost, businesses are closing down, farm attacks are escalating and the state’s supposed safety net such as Sassa  and the UIF are letting desperate citizens down,” said Lotriet.

“The truth is that nothing dissuades investors like a threat to the security of their assets, regardless of how innocuously it is couched. Local and foreign investors will think twice before investing in SA,” she said.