- South African lawmakers have finally admitted to having shelved a proposed controversial land reform legislation aimed at allowing government to expropriate white owned land.
According to parliament committee on public works, Expropriation Bill which parliament's own legal advisers reckoned was unconstitutional because it tried to prevent recourse to courts for people whose property had been taken, has been put on hold due to lack of consultation.
With the bill, SA government wants to redistribute one third of white-owned farmland to blacks by 2014, but so far only 4 percent of land has been transferred to blacks.
"The decision was reached after consultation with various stakeholders both within and outside parliament and in the interest of broader consultation and effective public participation," read a committee statement.
But chair of the committee Thandi Tobias-Pokolo declined up until now to say that the committee was not proceeding with it. On Tuesday she relented and announced its withdrawal until further notice, blaming lack of proper consultation as reason for withdrawal.
"Advice sought by portfolio committee indicated that more time was needed to ensure that a wide variety of stakeholders had been consulted and that public participation may have been insufficient to see bill through," said committee statement.
However, Ms Tobias-Pokolo said committee hoped that the Bill would be reintroduced in the next parliament.
South African Institute of Race Relations said Bill should be withdrawn from parliament, terming the move as a draconian measure that would unsettle property rights of all South Africans.
COSATU spokesperson Patrick Craven said battles over land ownership are not just a South African phenomenon but, a world-wide concern.
"South Africa is different only in unique way, land ownership, was imposed by the state in a blatantly racist fashion. That is why land reform has been an even bigger priority than in other parts of the world," he said.
Expropriation Bill, which was introduced in April this year, focuses on returning land to blacks that was seized by whites after 1913. However, thousands of claims are still being processed across the country for land and property taken unlawfully from black owners during apartheid era.
At the end of apartheid in 1994, nearly 90% of land was owned by whites, who constituted only 10% of total population.
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