Trust: This Land Is Not Ours, Yet


I’ve learned that it takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it.

I’ve decided to approach this week’s truism from the series I’ve learned from a different perspective. 

 I want to use the subject of land as a starting point because not only is it a hotly contested and highly divisive subject in South Africa,  it is also current.  This week is the last week for the public to submit comments on the Constitution Amendment Bill, which seeks to change section 25 of the the country’s constitution to allow for the state to expropriate property without the payment of compensation in the public’s interest or for public use. 

The bill seeks to remove the courts from the land expropriation decision making process effectively removing them as the adjudicator on whether or not the state will pay for land it expropriates. Under the new bill these decision making powers will rest with the Minister of Land reform.

Now I am sure that by now you are wondering what Land rights in South Africa have to do with building or breaking trust.

As it turns out a lot. 

During the past couple of days I accidentally discovered that a large portion of South Africans who live in government subsidised houses commonly known as RDP houses do not have proof of ownership or title deeds in short. In fact according to an article in the Daily Maverick, close to 60 percent of South Africa’s population (30 million people) live in RDP houses with no or inaccurate, outdated tittles.

When the ANC came into power in 1994 – it promised people free houses and services which many assumed included ownership of the land on which these houses were built. But it did not.

Because 25 years later people who live on municipal land or RDP houses still do not have title deeds due to a variety of factors, including, but not limited to transfers not being recorded with the deeds office at all because of institutional inefficiencies.

This constitutes a breach of trust.

For many years while growing up and even in adulthood, many of us believed that the  ANC, with all its structural and systemic failures and challenges meant well and aimed to ensure that eventually the people will get to own the rights to property and land stolen from them many years ago. 

Our grandparents believed this.  We believed this, but it was a lie. The slow pace or lack of land transfer for people living  in municipal housing  has made it easier for the ANC government to continue evicting people from land without compensation.

The current bill of expropriation without compensation is a sensitive one for the commercial/business sector in our country who fear that their property rights will be taken away which will result in the capital flight and a depreciation of the country’s economy.

On the other hand the ANC government is moving ahead with the bill in order to bridge the unequal economic gaps in the country. Those who are proponents for the bill see it as a good thing for  previously disadvantaged groups in society.  They think that the bill will dissolve all the communal land trusts and former “Bantustans“, and fully re-incorporate the lands back to the republic so that individual title deeds can be issued to the people who live there which will result in the genuine empowerment and immediate wealth beneficiation of nearly 18 million people.

But one wonders if changing the constitution to allow for government to acquire more land will result in any benefits for 60 percent of the population who are still without tenure even today.  If the government has not been able to successfully transfer property and land rights to it’s people as it promised in 1994, perhaps the distractors of this bill are right to think that the ANC might be using the bill to simply make it the sole owners or custodians of land in the whole country, leaving the entire population at their mercy.

So yes it is true that it can take years to build trust and only seconds to destroy it, in my case it took a few minutes at the deeds office to realise that my grandparents were sold a lie, they died owning nothing. Dololo.

Please click here to submit your comment on the Constitutional Amendment bill before Friday.



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