'We will block land bill'
"If government is determined to push through [Parliament] this legislation, the DA will support any proposed Constitutional Court action, and will if necessary, consider taking this route itself," DA spokesman Maans Nel said in a statement.
The draft Expropriation Amendment bill, now before the National Assembly's land affairs committee, was replete with constitutional inconsistencies, he said.
"While we are firmly in favour of a sustainable, equitable and just land programme, we cannot support a bill which is manifestly unconstitutional," Nel said.
Of major concern was the measure gave Public Works Minister Thoko Didiza, unfettered powers.
"If it is not amended, the bill will afford excessive powers to the Minister of Public Works to determine the value of a person's property without allowing that person (the seller) full recourse to a court of law to review the value offered," he said.
The measure also violated the rights of landowners, as its provisions did not recognise a seller's right to contest in a court of law the price at which he or she was being expected to sell a property.
"The proposed bill removes this power from the courts, and in effect makes the offer of compensation the sole preserve of the executive, since only the procedure followed by the state in determining the value of the compensation offered would be subject to review by the courts, not the actual amount of compensation offered."
While the DA understood the need for the land distribution programme to be fast-track, the party believed the willing seller approach was the best option.
"Instead of trying to enact legislation which is already having a negative effect on local and international investor sentiment, the government would be much better advised to implement appropriate strategies to identify willing sellers, and to commit more funds to land redistribution and restitution," Nel said. - Sapa
Government to fast-track land distribution
She told a press briefing in Cape Town on Thursday that currently black farmers owned 4,7 percent of farmland. "We are saying that if we acquire five million next year we will be on target."
This would go to about 10 000 black farmers.
Xingwana said she thought this target was realistic and that strategies previously used were being reviewed.
"We also need financial resources. The willing buyer, willing seller principle is not working. The public works minister is tabling the expropriation act, so we hope that with all these we can fast-track the process."
Xingwana said regulation of foreign land-ownership was a certainty. "At this point in time we definitely agree that we have to regulate foreign land-ownership. We will look at the options and international best practices."
She hoped that half of the outstanding land claims would be settled by the end of this year. These were mostly rural claims held up by disagreements between tribal chiefs over where boundaries lay, and white farmers disputing the validity of claims.
Expropriation would be used to settle claims not finalised by the end of 2008, Xingwana said.
Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said efforts to speed up land redistribution were part of President Thabo Mbeki's "apex priorities", announced in his State of the Nation speech.
More attention would be paid to supporting the beneficiaries of restituted and redistributed land, to ensure it was productive. - Sapa
Agri SA: Bill pushed too fast
It voiced concern that Cabinet approved the principles contained in the draft policy on expropriation despite serious reservations raised by the union and other organisations.
These include the wide-ranging powers given to the minister of public works, the limitation on the right of the property owner of full access to the courts, the possible watering-down of market-related compensation, as well as the haste with which this Bill will be passed.
Property rights in general, and not only agricultural land, could come under serious threat, and it was clear that legal and market principles could be violated if the approach in the policy document is adopted, the union warned.
It said it would take any legal recourse necessary.
Agri SA said it had not seen the Bill - only the draft policy and the principles as approved by Cabinet are in the public domain.
The Transvaal Agricultural Union said on Thursday the government's amendments to the present Expropriation Act might be in contravention of the Constitution.
The union said it had discussed the matter at its general council meeting in Pretoria on Wednesday.
"It was then realised that those amendments may be in contravention of Sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Constitution, Act 108 of 1996."
Union president Paul van der Walt said the current process was an intimidation and propaganda exercise.
"It is therefore necessary for all stakeholders to unite regarding this issue." - Sapa
THIS BILL IS JUST ANOTHER WAY OF THE COMMUNIST ANC TO EVICT FARMERS WITHOUT PAYING THEM.