Land expropriation without compensation worries SAPOA, but ANC says ‘no need to panic’

By Suren Naidoo

With the thorny issue of land expropriation without compensation now under constitutional review, the SA Property Owners Association (SAPOA) yesterday raised concerns over policy in relation to food security, agricultural production and the economy. But, ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte, has come out saying ‘there is no need to panic’.

The country’s largest commercial property industry body has been vocal about the issue in the past. In the wake of the recent motion in the National Assembly to amend the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation, SAPOA has reiterated its concerns.

“SAPOA believes that while the historical background of land ownership needs to be addressed, it is critically important that South Africa navigates through the sensitivities with the greater vision to ensure that the imbalance is dealt with and that the economic stability continues to be reinforced,” it said in a statement released in the morning.

Commenting further, SAPOA Chief Executive Officer, Neil Gopal said: “SAPOA supports a land expropriation process where the rights of present and future landowners are balanced, with the need to ensure stability and economic growth.”

Neil Gopal, the CEO of the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA)

He added: “We understand that the country cannot afford to protect private property with such zeal that it entrenches privilege, creates further inequality and entrenches poverty. This is a recipe for instability. The guarantee of private ownership to ensure investment, in tandem with addressing the ills of the past, is fundamental to a stable democracy.”

Speaking at a media briefing later in the day at the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters in Johannesburg, Duarte together with ANC Secretary-General, Ace Magashule, said the land policy being considered was not going to negatively affect food production or undermine the economy. Duarte said there was no need to panic, describing as “nonsense”, the suggestions that SA was addressing the land issue like Zimbabwe.

ANC Deputy Secretary-General, Jessie Duarte, says ‘no need to panic’ on the SA land policy debate

“This panic is in fact being stimulated by some people, including our good friends who are going overseas, to talk about SA being another Zimbabwe. That is absolute nonsense… What is going to happen is that there is a land use plan in the making, and the question of land redistribution cannot be an ANC decision only; it has to be a national decision,” said Duarte.

Magashule said the review and proposed amendments to Section 25 of the SA Constitution, would grant government the legal means to ensure that people share in the country’s wealth. And that, as stipulated in the Freedom Charter, the land shall be shared among those who work it. He reiterated the ANC stance that the policy must be executed in an orderly manner and that illegal occupiers of land should face the law.

‘A SENSIBLE PROCESS’

Meanwhile, commenting on land expropriation without compensation at its results media briefing this week, JSE-listed Growthpoint Properties CEO, Norbert Sasse, said he believed that ‘a sensible process’ would take place. Growthpoint is the largest primary listed SA real estate investment trust (REIT), with property assets worth more than R127.7 billion. More than 70% of its assets are in South Africa, and the Government Employees Pension Fund is its largest single shareholder.

Sasse said: “There is now improved sentiments in South Africa, following recent political changes. Positive sentiments drive the markets, so the land debate must be handled sensitively… Moody’s will be making its SA ratings decision in March, which is going to be a key moment for the SA economy and our industry.”

In its statement, SAPOA’s said South Africa must be a nation that recognises a need for land reform, and that accepts that it must be done being cognisant of property rights, and a need for a thriving and competitive economy.

“Key challenges facing South Africa include extremely high levels of unemployment, structural poverty and inequality – and, the question we need to address is how we resolve these critical issues through the process of land reform,” said Gopal.

“There is no doubt that we need to urgently reverse the racial inequalities in land resulting from our colonial past and the violent dispossession of indigenous people off their land. But we need more clarity and debate on the factors responsible for the slow pace of land reform, and we welcome engagement with the Constitutional Review Committee on these matters.”

There will be a public participation process in the Constitutional Review Committee’s work around the motion of land expropriation without compensation. The Committee is anticipated to report back on proposed changes to Section 25 of the Constitution by 30 August 2018.