Date: February 24th 2016
Source: SABC News
South Africa's main house of Parliament took a first step on Tuesday towards enabling the state to make compulsory purchases of land to redress racial disparities in land ownership.
Land is an emotive issue in South Africa, where most of it remains in white hands 22 years after the end of apartheid and many commercial and small-scale farmers are currently facing tough times because of the worst drought in at least a century.
Parliament passed the bill that will enable the state to pay for land at a value determined by a government adjudicator and then expropriate it for the "public interest".
The bill, which still needs to be passed by South Africa's other house of parliament and signed into law by President Jacob Zuma, effectively scraps the willing-buyer, willing-seller approach to land reform.
But it does not signal the kind of often violent land grabs that took place in neighbouring Zimbabwe, where white-owned farms were seized by the government for redistribution to landless blacks.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) said the bill, criticised by opposition parties and farming groups, "will intensify the land reform programme and bring about equitable access to South Africa's land, natural resources and food security."
Owners can also challenge the compensation offered in the court
Experts have estimated that about 8 million hectares (20million acres) have been transferred to black owner’s since apartheid, equal to 8 to 10% of the land in white hands in 1994.
The total is only a third of the 30% targeted by the ANC under its "willing buyer-willing seller" scheme and a parallel process of "land claims" by individuals or communities dispossessed under white rule.
In the new legislation, the state can acquire land without the owners' consent by paying an amount determined by the office of the Valuer-General.
Owners can also challenge the compensation offered in the court.
Democratic Alliance (DA), Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) and United Democratic Movement (UDM) have opposed the newly passed legislation, they have warned that the bill will deter investors and the DA says it is at odds with the Constitution.
However Public Works Deputy Minister Jeremy Cronin says the legislation will provide a clear framework for expropriation and fair compensation.
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