by Thanda Mhlanga on November 6, 2018
5 min read

If there’s a lesson to be learnt from recent events is that when it comes to South Africa as a tourism destination, not everything that’s reported is an accurate representation of the situation on the ground. Recently the water crisis in Cape Town was fervently and not always accurately reported on worldwide. Panic broke out, especially among travellers wanting to visit our shores but fearing to arrive to a chaotic dystopia without water –  even as locals and the tourism industry successfully implemented water-saving measures that helped stave off the crisis. Not surprisingly, Cape Town experienced a dramatic slump in tourism that ended up causing more damage than the water situation itself. With this in mind, we look at another topic that’s received international coverage, with the potential of causing unnecessary worry – land expropriation.

Gorgeous scenery and views from Cape Town

Chapman’s Peak Drive in Cape Town
Photo credit: Love Cape Town

Setting The Record Straight

Fuelling the furore around land expropriation are the implications for the country’s economy and the possible displacement of current landowners. It’s a story that’s attracted the attention of world leaders such as the US President and the Australian Prime Minister, who’ve all weighed in on the issue. The mired history of neighbouring country Zimbabwe, and the economic downturn and sanctions that were a result of land seizures, haven’t helped quell the anxiety experienced by locals and those wanting to visit the country. However, contrary to existing belief, travellers need not worry, South Africa continues to be a safe and stable tourism destination.

Frau vor Skyline einer Grosstadt bei Nacht

Joburg city lights
Photo credit:: Elsa Bleda

What’s Behind Expropriation Without Compensation

South Africa has one of the most sophisticated constitutions in the world, which makes changing it in any way, shape or form a complex and multi-faceted process. Article 25 of the Constitution clearly states, “No one may be deprived of property,” which means that this paragraph would have to be changed to make expropriation without compensation lawful.

Expropriation without compensation, which means that the state could acquire land – if it’s legally justified and serves the purpose of the public – to keep or transfer to private individuals, has huge ramifications. Thankfully, this is understood by the country’s ruling party, the ANC. Recently they’ve made great effort to assure citizens and the international community at large that property rights in South Africa were not under threat nor were there any intentions to “grab land” as previously feared. In fact, the party has said, when land redistribution happens it will be done in such a way that it would not affect the country’s productivity or economy.

Tourism is one the industries that's likely to be impacted by anxieties around Land Expropriation

A panoramic view of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town
Photo credit: Rhino Africa

What The Law Says

The purpose of land expropriation without compensation is to facilitate the greater goal of land reform. Whatever legislative amendments are made can only pass if they are just and in pursuit of historic redress. As numerous human rights lawyers have stated, the legislation should not create another form of dispossession as was seen in 1923 when land belonging to African communities was seized or the 1950 Group Areas Act that saw black people pushed out of cities to make way for new settlements to the benefit of white people. It should also be noted that land reform that’s done unlawfully would not benefit historically disadvantaged South Africans as the poor, powerless and landless would certainly be the last to benefit. This is why law practitioners, and the governing party (judging from statements released of late) agree that the process should be transparent and overseen by the necessary administrative and judicial institutions.

South Africa's landscapes are some of the most beautiful in Africa and the world

An aerial view of the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga
Photo credit: Rhino Africa

What The President Says

With general elections looming next year, President Cyril Ramaphosa has embraced expropriation without compensation but insists there won’t be a land grab. It’s not surprising that he’s re-prioritised the issue, though, given the growing popularity of the populist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, which has the support of impoverished youth and wants the country’s land nationalised. However, President Ramaphosa has made it clear that he will do nothing to jeopardise future investment in South Africa and agriculture, one of the country’s biggest sectors. Plans, he’s said, are to redistribute unused land, dilapidated buildings, and abandoned inner-city buildings, among others.

South Africa's coasts are pristine and beloved by locals and tourists alike

Durban Beach in KwaZulu-Natal

South Africa Is Still An Incredible (and Safe) Tourism Destination

In summary, travellers have nothing to fear. The debate around land expropriation has no impact on tourism. The country is peaceful and stable, the infrastructure is solid and the destinations that have enchanted millions of visitors still await. In addition, it’s never been a better time to come to our shores. Not only is it a great value-for-money destination, it also offers great weather and a diversity of landmarks and attractions such as the monumental Table Mountain, white sandy beaches and the epic Cape Winelands. The classic South African adventure, an unforgettable safari, is still as rewarding as ever and promises a glimpse at the icon Big 5 – elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo. Read our blog on 5 reasons to visit South Africa now for more.

Leopards are abundant in South Africa's Lowveld region and wildernesses such as the Kruger National Park and Private Game Reserves

The leopard in its natural habitat in the South African wild
Photo credit: Fabrizio Bignotti

If you’re already dreaming of your once-in-a-lifetime South Africa trip, get in touch with our travel experts who’ll help plan a bespoke itinerary to include one or more of the country’s renowned destinations. Click here