News Details

Land Reform, Expropriation without Compensation: Where do we go from here?

10/24/2018 AHK Süd-Afrika - News-Hauptkategorie

Johannesburg, 19 October 2018 – Discussions around land reform and the issue of expropriation without compensation have many local and foreign investors on edge. How will this affect current South African property owners? Will a constitutional amendment change the situation or will it have little impact on land reform?

To answer these questions and put the minds of its members at ease, the Southern African-German Chamber was pleased to organise a seminar on behalf of SLKB Attorneys on this pressing issue, presented by Prof Dr Elmien du Plessis, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at North-West University. Prof Dr du Plessis is especially interested in property law and the issue of land reform, and, as it happens, she had obtained her doctorate on the topic, “Compensation for Expropriation under the Constitution” (in 2009). She has advised numerous stakeholders in this field and even gave a presentation on the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution to a parliament committee in September 2018.

Prof Dr du Plessis started her talk by explaining that land has always been linked to power in South Africa – in a political, social and cultural context. As such, Section 25 of the Constitution and its subsections have a protecting and refraining force, and those that enforce it try to balance out the different interests of the individual and society. In that sense, what the Constitution has to say about land and property in South Africa is rather similar to Article 14 of German Basic Law, which tries to create this balance between individual and societal interests and allows for private ownership to be understood in a larger societal sense.

Prof Dr du Plessis gave some insight into how the discussion on land reform and expropriation has been handled in recent years. She explained that - although some in parliament seek radical land reform (i.e. nationalisation), while the majority feel it may be possible to expropriate land without compensation under the current Constitutional laws - some limitations were proposed, under which the expropriation without compensation would be just, as in cases where the property is abandoned, unused, underutilised. However, for now it appears that no clear policy exists concerning the land reform programme, its implementation, and what may happen to the land afterwards.

As was to be expected, the questions and answer session that followed the presentation was very lively. Many of the guests engaged Prof Dr du Plessis, asking how to prevent corruption on the issue of expropriation, whether the British/London model of expropriation could feasibly be applied in South Africa, what effect has the media coverage had on this issue, and how are the terms “land” and “property” being defined in discussions around land reform. Prof Dr du Plessis opined that the Constitution may not require any amendments, but she is in favour of land reform – an opinion that, according to the press, is something of a contradiction. There is a need for a holistic approach that addresses the whole system of land reform, which will involve a range of conversations that South Africans and the South African government are not discussing or addressing.

About SLKB Inc.

Spellas Lengert Kübler Braun Incorporated (“SLKB”) is a local and personal law firm, firmly rooted in Johannesburg, located in the heart of Melville and with strong connections overseas, in particular to Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

The attorneys at SLKB are committed and down to earth - they will roll up their sleeves in order to achieve the best results quickly, confidently and efficiently. SLKB is a true partnership; the firm’s philosophy is that whoever in the firm is best suited for every individual aspect of a client’s matter will do the job. The firm always provides integrated solutions for their clients and, if needs be, makes use of its close links to external specialists in various fields.

SLKB aims to simplify the legal process and provides affordable, high quality advice so their clients can stick to what they do best, while the firm constantly keeps their clients up to date of any developments in their matters. The attorneys of SLKB get to know their clients and assist them in pinpointing legal issues before they become a problem to enable their clients to be more proactive.

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Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry
The Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been operating in Southern Africa for over 65 years. Bringing together potential business partners is one of our key service offerings. We foster business links between Germany and Southern African companies through comprehensive and target group-oriented researches, workshops, seminars and business delegations that bring you in contact with competent business partners in your industry. Contact the Chamber to get connected with German and southern African businesses at info(at); or call +27 11 486 2775.