Johannesburg - South Africa’s Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, says her department will be the first to use a constitutional amendment that will enable the expropriation of land without compensation.
The minister said this during a media briefing ahead of her portfolio's budget vote debate on Tuesday, adding that her department intended to put a clause in the proposed draft legislation which stipulates that all public land identified for expropriation in cities would be used for housing purposes.
"I am giving notice today that we will expropriate that land and make sure it is given back,” said Sisulu.
During his State of the Nation Address in February, President Cyril Ramaphosa said his government had earmarked state-owned land for redistribution.
State-owned land could include land owned by entities like Eskom and Transnet, or land used by the military and other government entities.
"We need to own and utilise public land for the purpose that we want to scale. With the new draft legislation for land expropriation in the pipeline, we will make sure that we are the first takers in the queue for expropriated land. In short, we will be the first expropriators as soon as legislation is passed," said Sisulu.
She added that Cape Town was her priority in terms of availing land for housing.
"We will not be in charge of the legislation; the Department of Public Works will still be in charge of the legislation. However, when legislation is put out there for comment we will be able to include our comments and when that is done, our challenge will be Cape Town. Our target will be Cape Town, we have a lot of urban land there that is very suitable for human settlements," she said.
Sisulu said her priorities for the department this year would be to reverse entrenched patterns, provide free housing and support for low-income groups as well as ensuring that new housing developments were close to cities.
She said this could only be attained by owning and utilising public land for those purposes through the new legislation, as well as ensuring housing finances were available through the Human Settlements Development Bank.
Throughout her speech, Sisulu emphasised how adamant she was on expropriating land.
I'm glad parliament has finally gotten to this point where we are able to expropriate land and I'd like to be the first taker. The draft legislation determines that no land will be expropriated for any other reason other than public interest. I cannot see that there is any greater public interest than what we represent in human settlements,” she said.
She also expressed rage over the move by former opposition Democratic Alliance premier for the Western Cape province, Helen Zille, to reverse an agreement which was meant to avail land for housing to the people.
"In 2009, the Housing Development Agency (HDA) signed an agreement of alienation of ownership with the provincial government of the Western Cape to transfer land that belonged to them to the HDA, so that human settlements could be created for the people in the province. Then DA premier Helen Zille reversed the legal agreement upon taking control of the province in 2009, saying the then-ANC government's plan was ‘illegal and unconstitutional’.