Johannesburg may bring expropriation test case
Publish date: 12 March 2018
Issue Number: 765
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa
Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba is tackling inner-city rejuvenation, leading raids on derelict buildings and condemning crime and undocumented foreigners – and now he’s prepared to test the Constitution on expropriation, notes Legalbrief. According to a Daily Maverick report, his spokesperson Tony Taverna-Turisan said the city had identified 300 hijacked buildings and was investigating launching civil proceedings to take control of 48. Taverna-Turisan said the city had a number of options. Where buildings have become derelict and owners can be identified and have outstanding municipal debts, the owners can agree to pay their arrears while paying their current bills. Identified owners who don’t want to pay their arrears can enter into an abandonment agreement and transfer ownership to the city. If an owner refuses to sign an acknowledgement of debt or abandonment agreement, the city can go to court for an attachment of debt order or commence expropriation proceedings to take ownership of the building in the public interest. The building would ‘then be redeveloped into low-cost housing, student accommodation and affordable rental space for small businesses’, said Taverna-Turisan. In instances where an owner can’t be found, the city will apply for an abandonment order directing the Registrar of Deeds to register the property in the name of the state. ‘Expropriation is one of the legal processes available to government for the acquisition of properties for a public purpose or in the public interest,’ said Taverna-Turisan. ‘The intended purpose behind the city’s plans to expropriate derelict buildings is aligned to the applicable legal framework.’ ‘This might be an important test case,’ Professor Ruth Hall, of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape, is quoted as saying.