By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) – South Africa’s parliament has approved a bill allowing the government to expropriate land in a country which emerged from decades of apartheid in 1994.
Much of the land in South Africa is still owned by members of the white community, while the majority of blacks remain landless, 22 years after the end of minority rule.
The bill approved in parliament on Thursday will allow for the compulsory purchase of land by the state at a value determined its adjudicator without following the principle of ‘willing buyer, willing seller’.
However, a major agricultural union in South Africa has expressed fears the bill could affect commercial farming in the country.
Chris Van Zyl, assistant general manager of the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa, told Anadolu Agency: “We are extremely concerned that the act could be abused for restitution purposes since the state has removed the principal of willing buyer, willing seller.”
He said there was also fear that the state could nationalize the land, making them the sole custodians. This could mean commercial farmers could no longer use their land as collateral to obtain loans from banks.
South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said in a statement the bill does not stipulate whether compensation offered for expropriated property would cover outstanding bank loans.
The party says it is also possible that an expropriated owner could end up without a house or farm, but would still need to pay installments on an outstanding bank loan.
South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) said in a statement that land will only be expropriated after “just and equitable” compensation is paid to the owner.
Political analyst Prof. Sipho Seepe welcomed the bill, saying it was a bold decision taken for the first time by the governing party to address land inequality.
He told Anadolu Agency: “The government has previously been concerned about what the international community would say about land exploitation but they have now taken a bold decision because blacks cannot continue to remain landless in their country of birth.”
However, Prof. Seepe refused to be drawn on if the expropriation program would be a success, and not a failure as in some other countries. “It’s difficult to say what the future holds,” he said.