Fraus Legis in Constitutional Law: The Case of Expropriation "Without" or for "Nil" Compensation

  • Martin van Staden Sakeliga, Free Market Foundation
Keywords: constitutional amendments, without compensation, substance over form, Fraus legis

Abstract

Fraus legis – defrauding or evading the application of law – is a phenomenon well-known to students of private law, but its application in public law, including constitutional law, remains largely unconsidered. To consider whether a transaction, or, it is submitted, an enactment, is an instance of fraus legis, an interpreter must have regard to the substance and not merely the form of an enactment. In 2018 Parliament resolved to amend section 25 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (the Constitution) to allow government to expropriate property without being required to pay compensation. While the public and legal debate has since before that time been concerned with "expropriation without compensation", the draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill, 2019 provides instead for expropriation where "the amount of compensation is nil". By the admission of Parliament's legal services unit, this is a distinction without a difference. But compensation and expropriation are legally and conceptually married, and as a result, it would be impermissible to expropriate without compensation – instead, nil compensation will be "paid". How does this current legal affair comport with the substance over form principle, and is fraus legis at play? This article considers the application of the fraus legis phenomenon to public law, utilising the contemporary case study of the Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill.

References

Literature

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Case law

City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality v Afriforum & Another [2016] ZACC 19

Harris & Others v Minister of the Interior & Another 1952 (2) SA 428 (A)

Minister of the Interior & Another v Harris & Others [1952] 4 All SA 376 (A)

Legislation

Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill, 2019

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Constitution of the United States of America, 1789 (United States)

Group Areas Act 14 of 1950

Group Areas Act 77 of 1957

Group Areas Act 36 of 1966

High Court of Parliament Act 46 of 1951

Land Court Bill, 2021

Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998

Native Trust and Land Act 18 of 1936

Natives Land Act 27 of 1913

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Internet sources

Agri SA 2017 https://www.blsa.org.za/assets/Uploads/2017-July-Possible-impact-of-land-expropriation-on-the-agric-sector-27-July2.pdf accessed 11 March 2021

Cronin J 2018 “It’s land reform, not narrow ‘expropriation without compensation’ https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-07-23-its-land-reform-not-narrow-expropriation-without-compensation/ accessed 11 March 2021

Future Directions 2015 https://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/challenges-confronting-south-africa-land-reform/ accessed 11 March 2021

Hall R 2018 https://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/opinion/landexpropriation-for-what-land-reform-for-whom-your-land-questions-answered-16370960 accessed 11 March 2021

Moore G 2018 https://ruleoflaw.org.za/2018/05/21/whether-expropriation-without-compensation-would-violate-sas-treaty-or-international-law-obligations/ accessed 11 March 2021
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Published
2021-06-28
Section
Articles