A team of four constitutional property law and land reform experts from Stellenbosch University made a submission to the constitutional review committee recently.
Professors Bradley Slade, Juanita Pienaar, Zsa-Zsa Boggenpoel and Ms Tina Kotze from the Faculty of Law, wrote a submission to the constitutional review committee (link to submission). This was then followed up by a recent (3 September) oral submission to the committee in the Old Assembly Chamber in Parliament.
On the 27th of February 2018, the National Assembly adopted a motion to review section 25 and other clauses of the 1996 Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land in the public interest without compensation. The underlying reason for this motion is the fact that the Constitution requires the state to pay compensation when it expropriates property. The obligation to pay compensation is seemingly seen as an obstacle that frustrates the attainment of land reform targets. This may be influenced by the underlying misconception that the Constitution requires the state to pay compensation equivalent to market value when it expropriates property.
The crux of the team's submission was that the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution is not required for the effective implementation of land reform. The Constitution already provides the constitutional authority for the expropriation of property for land reform purposes and legislation specifically enables the state to expropriate property for various land reform programmes.
The team in fact urged the state to use its power of expropriation for land reform purposes if it is necessary. It was reiterated that the standard of compensation is justice and equity and not market value. It was furthermore argued by the team that in some cases market value compensation will be just and equitable, while in other very little, or even no compensation may be just and equitable, but that the determination will depend on the particular facts of each individual case. In that regard, the team suggested that parliament should give greater clarity in legislation and in policy directives as to how just and equitable compensation should be approached by both the administrators and the courts.
The team also argued that any amendment of section 25 within the parameters set out in the motion will differentiate between the expropriation of land in the public interest and the expropriation of property for a public purpose, and will inevitably offend foundational values such as human dignity, equality and the rule of law of principle as well as other provisions in the bill of rights, most notably section 36(1), the general limitations clause. Any amendment of section 25 to permit expropriation of land in the public interest without compensation therefore necessitate a complete overhaul of the constitutional design and should, at this stage, be avoided.
- Article submitted by Prof Bradley Slade, Faculty of Law.