State Responsibility and the Question of Expropriation: A Preliminary to the “Land Expropriation without Compensation” Policy in South Africa

  •  Abdul Hamid Kwarteng    
  •  Thomas Prehi Botchway    


Expropriation is a right granted to States under international law; however this right does not guarantee States to abuse their power to unlawfully seize properties without following due process or paying the right compensation. In August 2018, the president of South Africa proposed a bill that would allow the government to expropriate land without compensation and this bill has attracted the attention of both scholars of international law and foreign investors.

With a qualitative approach and a cross sectional analysis of data, this article seeks to analyze the nature of this bill to determine whether it infringes on the principles and practice of international law, as well as the likely consequences that the bill could have on the global image of South Africa and foreign direct investment in the country. The research approach allowed the authors to analyze important literature while making inferences to cases of expropriation in different parts of the world and juxtaposing them with South Africa’s intended policy.

The article concludes that one of the main critical issues for determining the lawful nature of expropriation is that it should be accompanied by an appropriate, adequate, effective, and prompt compensation, and as such not only does this bill constitute to a breach of international law but it will also damage the economy by scaring foreign investors away. In addition, the State would be compelled to spend millions of the already limited resources of the country in defending itself against international lawsuits that will be filed by affected individuals. It is thus suggested that a much better approach for land reform should be adopted by the government in its quest for development.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.