The Minister of Public Works briefed the Committee on the Expropriation Draft Bill. The Committee was directed to ask only questions of clarification and not to engage in heavy discussion on the Bill. The Committee’s deadline for submissions would be 14 April and the hearings would be held on provisionally the 7 and 8 May. The Bill is expected to be certified by the State Law Advisors on 31 March 2008 and formally introduced into Parliament thereafter.
The Chair stated that the Bill attempted to bring the Expropriation Act of 1975 as amended in line with the Constitution. Ms Tobias asked the Committee to be as objective as possible given that the legacies of apartheid were still present.
Mr Blanche (DA) asked how the Bill was to be discussed given that members had not had the opportunity to peruse it. Members had yet to read the Draft Bill.
The Chair said that the intention of the meeting was not to discuss the Bill but for the Minister to present the Bill to the Committee.
Mr S Opperman (DA) asked whether the Bill would be addressing the land issues of the Khoisan and Koi Koi people.
Ms Tobias proceeded to provide the Committee with a breakdown of the proposed framework of the Bill. She provided detail on the process from advertising the Bill for comment up until assent by the President.The deadline for submissions would be 14 April and the hearings would be provisionally on the 7 and 8 May.
Minister of Public Works Thoko Didiza presented the Bill to the Committee, accompanied by a large delegation. It included representatives from the Ministry, the Department as well as representatives from other affected departments. The state law advisers and the parliamentary law advisers were also in attendance. The Minister began with a brief background to this Bill (see document). Minister Didiza continued with a breakdown of the structure of the Bill and provided insight into the specific provisions of the Bill. The briefing shed light on the powers of the Minister, an investigation before an expropriation and the process once a decision to expropriate was taken. The Bill detailed the process of expropriation from the publication and service of a notice up until the payment of compensation where appropriate, to the parties affected.
The Chair asked members to stick to questions of clarification as detailed discussions on the Bill were yet to come as the process moved on.
Minister Didiza affirmed that the briefing was only an introduction on the Bill.
Mr Opperman referred to the withdrawal of compensation by the Minister and asked whether there were guidelines to assist the Minister.
Minister Didiza said that there would be guidelines for the Minister. The overarching guideline was that the expropriation must be in the public interest and for public purposes.
Ms C Ramotsamai (ANC) asked what the need for the Bill was and how different was it from other pieces of legislation dealing with land. She asked what unregistered rights were.
Ms Ramotsamai asked how farm workers were going to be assisted with understanding legalese once notices of expropriation were served upon them. What was the process to be followed before expropriation? How long was the process of negotiating compensation and were specific timeframes set? She referred to the provision in the Bill that held owners of expropriated property liable for outstanding rates. She said the Bill should be stricter on this. Outstanding rates should first be settled and the remaining balance of funds paid to the property owner.
Minister Didiza said that expropriation legislation was inconsistent with current legislation. Section 25 of the Constitution provided for the right to own property as well as for expropriation for a public purpose or in the public interest.
Minister Didiza said that there were those persons who had registered rights in terms of ownership of land and then there were those persons who had lived on pieces of land their whole lives where such land was not registered in their names. She noted that for the period 1994-1999 attempts had been made for the informal protection of informal land rights. Specific attempts were made to protect persons’ rights who lived on farms for most of their lives. The right to live on the land was protected but was not registered. The Bill therefore provided for persons who had unregistered rights to be compensated for the loss of those rights.
Minister Didiza said that legislation must be interpreted in a language that was understood. Communication to farm workers must be done in languages that were understood. Notices of expropriation should therefore be in the language of the person on whom it was served.
The Minister explained the process to be followed even though it was explained in the briefing.
Minister Didiza said that negotiations on compensation were time bound. The legislation provided for time-lines.
Mr B Radebe (ANC) referred to the briefing document where it mentioned the stakeholders that had attended the workshop on the Bill and asked whether Agri-SA was not part of the farmers associations. Why was Agri-SA separately mentioned? He asked why no mention was made of the National African Farmers Union (NAFU). He also asked what happened when a farmer refused to give up land and brought in persons to squat on the land. Would these persons have unregistered rights?
Mr Radebe asked what the purpose of the Advisory Board was and why the Department of Public Works needed the assistance of the board. Mr Radebe asked whether the courts placed any weight on the decisions taken by the board. He noted that the more structures one had the more delays there were.
Minister Didiza stated that NAFU had participated in the workshop. She noted that there was no order of preference in the briefing; they were mere examples that had been used.
The Minister said that there was merit in having the Advisory Board. The Minister would be advised by the department and the Advisory Board. There was no issue of delays because of inputs by the Advisory Board.
The Chair stated that some of the questions asked thus far seemed to be encouraging discussion on the Bill. Discussions on the Bill would take place further in the process. The questions were supposed to be limited to those on clarity.
Mr S Nxumalo (ANC) referred to the properties to be expropriated and asked for detail on the size of the properties.
The Chair said that she was sure the list was long.
Mr Blanche asked whether the Bill had been explained to other parliamentary committees such as the Portfolio Committees on Agriculture and Justice. He also asked that the Committee be furnished with the policy document on which the Bill was based. Mr Blanche asked if a property was advertised for expropriation, would geographical co-ordinates be used?
Minister Didiza responded that presentations to other Portfolio Committees might be made. It was not up to the Minister to decide whether a presentation would be made to a particular parliamentary committee. She noted that technicalities on how information was to be used was dealt with in the Bill. Decisions needed to be taken on what the best mechanisms were. Detail on the advertisement of expropriation was not spelt out in the Bill. She said that the policy document would be made available to the Committee.
The Chair said that the policy document would be appreciated. Ms Tobias thanked the Minister for the briefing and urged members to study the Draft Bill.
The meeting was adjourned.
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