Monday, March 15, 2010

Nationalizing all productive land

There has been a media frenzy around the possibility of government nationalising all productive land. I don't support this but there is a case to be made that the government has already nationalised land using the Minerals and Petroleum Development Act.

The MPRDA defines a mineral as 'any substance, whether in solid, liquid or gaseous form, occurring naturally in or on the earth or in or under water and which was formed by or subjected to a geological process, and includes sand, stone, rock, gravel, clay, soil...'

In this general form this would include all land (and in fact an academic called Badenhorst has long claimed this to be the case). The MPRDA proceeds to then say that 'Mineral and petroleum resources are the common heritage of all the people of South Africa and the State is the custodian thereof for the benefit of all South Africans.'

On the face of it, a case could be made that this amounts to nationalisation and this nationalisation includes all land. I think there are ways to avoid this interpretation but for the purposes of the current media frenzy I think its interesting that we already have legislation with rather dramatic appearing provisions relating to property rights and nationalisation. To me, this reflects the paucity of public debate around legislation and particular provisions of legislation that could have far reaching and unacceptable consequences.


  1. It is one of those telling historical events that circa 2002 re the MPRDA the big mining houses, with millions to spend on legal fees, en masse demonstrated their reservations about the CC by not even bothering to test that Act against the Constitution....