The long-awaited land expropriation without compensation will go ahead, South Africa’s Parliament said on Friday amid growing concern over the process.
Parliament made the statement after a colloquium on the process to amend Section 25 of the Constitution.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has tabled amendments to the Constitution in relation to land expropriation without compensation.
Under the ANC amendments, Parliament’s Joint Constitutional Review Committee will review Section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses where necessary to sufficiently cater for the principle of land expropriation without compensation.
At Friday’s colloquium hosted by the committee, stakeholders discussed inputs from, amongst others, land rights attorney, the agricultural sector, the banking sector, the land bank and academics.
Vincent Smith, co-chairperson of the committee, said in his opening remarks that there is universal acceptance that land reforms need to be accelerated.
Friday’s meeting was an information or induction session to sharpen the approaches of Members of Parliament in preparation of the public hearings starting later this month, Smith said.
“At this stage the committee is just arming itself with information before it goes out for public hearings to listen to the public. Those in favor of an amendment of Section 25 of Constitution must convince us why and those oppose to an amendment must also bring forward the argument against it,” said Smith.
Smith made it clear that the main purpose of land restitution is mainly to disrupt the apartheid special planning.
Representatives from AgriSA, an association of South African farmers, maitained that South Africa does not need more land but the challenge is rather the inability to implement laws.
They suggested finalization of the Expropriation Bill and testing the Constitution instead of amending it.
Vuyo Mahlati of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa insisted that land reform must go together with agrarian reform.
Representatives from the Congress of Traditional Leaders said they support the process but feel that it must be called repossession of land instead.
Former Judge Albie Sachs told the committee he is in favor of a re-drafted Expropriation Act that includes a clause that deals with expropriation that indicates the circumstances under which expropriation should take place.
Ruth Hall, a professor from the South African Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of Western Cape, told the committee that in many instances multi-nationals, trans-national companies or whites have benefited from land redistribution.
She also said that during the first 10 years of democracy there had been an increase of forcibly removing black people from land.
Aninka Claassens, senior researcher from the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town, said land should not be delivered to the state where no one can hold it to account as leases are not given.
Lewis Nzimande, another co-chairperson of the committee, said the question is not whether or not land restitution will go ahead but the modalities.
“We realize that a lot of work still lies ahead and therefor this is just the start. We will be going to the communities to listen to them,” he said.
The consensus is that the access to land is not there and there are needs for land, Nzimande said.
“The constitution needs to give expression to this,”he stressed.
Parliament’s latest move heralds a new era of intensified land distribution to address the long standing national grievance of South African blacks around land dispossession.
Since taking power in 1994, the ANC has made land redistribution from whites to blacks without compensation one of its main policies.
But land remains predominantly in white hands more than two decades after the end of apartheid, sparking growing discontent among South African blacks.
Opponents to land expropriation without compensation have voiced concern over compulsory purchases of land, saying this would kill jobs and threaten food security.
But the ANC has made it clear that land expropriation without compensation should be pursued without destabilizing the agricultural sector, endangering food security in the country, or undermining economic growth and job creation. Enditem