The African National Congress has announced that it supports a change in the constitution to provide for expropriation, without compensation, for land. The surprise announcement before the parliamentary process has been completed appears to play into the hands of the official opposition, which says it will aggressively oppose it.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, in making the announcement late on Tuesday, said: “Accordingly, the ANC will, through the parliamentary process, finalise a proposed amendment to the Constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected.”
This ends months of public hearings on the matter of changing section 25 of the constitution.
The proposal was first adopted in December by the party at its elective conference which brought Ramaphosa to power.
The land issue now looks set to be a major national election issue in 2019 when South Africa goes to the polls. One commentator Ryan Coetzee – once a key adviser of the Democratic Alliance – commented that now the opposition doesn’t have to worry about getting people to the poll.
One senior journalist Ferial Haffajee – debating why the president had made the announcement before the parliamentary process went into full swing – asked: ”Was he pushed because he holds such a slim majority on the party’s NEC (national executive committee)?”
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said it was “quite remarkable” that on the day that had seen unemployment rise again to levels “of a humanitarian crisis – the highest in 15 years – the ANC has decided to ramp up its efforts to undermine economic growth and job creation and play Russian roulette with the economic future of South Africa”.
He said successful land reform did not require amending the constitution. It required government action.
I required eradicating corruption, he argued. “And it requires economic certainty. The ANC, and President Ramaphosa, have failed in this and have failed the people of South Africa.
“We will oppose this move in parliament with all our might. We support land reform that makes South Africans owners and participants in a growing, thriving economy. We will never support a land policy that takes economic power away from South Africans and hands it to a corrupt government.”
EWN reported that the ANC had said in May it would “test the argument” that land redistribution without compensation is permitted under current laws, a plan that would have avoided the risky strategy of trying to change the constitution.
“It has become pertinently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation as demonstrated in the public hearings,” Ramaphosa said in a recorded address to the nation.
“The ANC will, through the parliamentary process, finalise the proposed amendment to the constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected,” Ramaphosa said.
While whites are believed to own the bulk of land – particularly farm land in rural areas – Ramaphosa has repeatedly said that expropriation should not have an impact on food production. The focus may then fall on urban land – but this will depend on the parliamentary process and policy initiatives of the ruling party.
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