7 March 2018

South Africa: Inner City Blues - Joburg Considers Test Case for Expropriation of Run-Down Buildings


The land expropriation conversation has focused on agricultural properties, but the City of Johannesburg is looking at expropriating inner-city buildings to tackle the housing backlog. It could provide a test case for expropriation within the current constitutional limits, but critics say the plan could worsen the housing crisis. By GREG NICOLSON.

In 2014, former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke expressed dismay that government had not brought a single case to the Constitutional Court to define what constitutes just and equitable compensation in the context of land expropriation under Section 25 of the Constitution.

"One would have expected that a matter so pressing as land use, occupation or ownership would predominate the list of disputes in the post-conflict contestation. Sadly, urban homelessness persists. Apartheid spatial patterns remain," he said, adding that the current expropriation legislation may have been "hopelessly under worked".

The National Assembly last week mandated a committee to review the Constitution's property clause to allow the state to expropriate land without compensation. While that process continues, Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba is pursuing a range of measures, including expropriation, to take over and refurbish at least 48 rundown inner-city buildings.

Mashaba has taken a strong position on inner-city rejuvenation, leading...

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