Land expropriation could assist public schools on private land - Equal Education

Equal Education says land expropriation could assist in securing access for pupils who attended public schools situated on private land.

The lobby group said it has included this opinion in its submission to the Joint Constitutional Review Committee, which is trying to ascertain whether a review of Section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses was necessary to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.

It has called for new tenure reform legislation to be enacted which will ensure long-term access and occupation of land, and for the Expropriation Bill to be passed. 

In a statement issued on Thursday, the organisation said the South African Schools Act makes provision for schools to be operated on private land through a long-term lease, but that this right is currently being threatened by farm owners controlling the land.

"For [pupils] attending public schools situated on private land, particularly farm schools, this right is threatened when farm owners decide to increase the rent, sell or repurpose their land, or actively try to prevent [pupils] and teachers from accessing the school."

As an example, Equal Education cited Grootkraal Primary School, have been operated on private land for more than 80 years.

In 2011, a new land owner allegedly refused to extend the lease and, as a consequence, the school was closed and 160 pupils had to be moved to a school nearly 120km away.

"In the Grootkraal case, the MEC for Education in the Western Cape failed to exercise her statutory duty to consider expropriation before proposing to 'relocate' [pupils]."

Equal Education says South Africa should not delay securing "equitable access to land" so that pupils can go to school with no fear of their right to education being infringed.

"There is an important link between current debates around land expropriation and [pupils'] right to basic education. 

"South Africa simply cannot afford further unnecessary delays in ensuring just and equitable access to land. It is further unconscionable that [pupils] should continue going to school with the fear that their access may be impeded or denied."

*This article has been updated to reflect that EE supports land expropriation which was not reflected in the previous article