Seven months after it adopted a resolution to expropriate land without compensation, the African National Congress is yet to spell out how it will implement its controversial decision.
The party held a media briefing on Wednesday following its two-day national executive committee (NEC) lekgotla this week that resolved to amend the Constitution.
The NEC wanted to provide “clarity” because the current property clause in the Constitution allows the state to effect expropriation of land with just and equitable compensation and also to expropriate without compensation in the public interest.
The party said that the current Joint Constitutional Review Committee’s land hearings have demonstrated that people want the Constitution to be more “explicit” about the expropriation of land without compensation.
“After watching the hearings and interacting with a number of people, there is clearly an overwhelming view that there should be clarity of purpose under which conditions we will do the expropriation of land without compensation,” NEC member Enoch Godongwana said.
However, at Tuesday’s briefing, which was attended by at least eight NEC members, the leaders could not answer exactly how the proposed amendment would be worded. “We are having an interesting democratic discussion in the ANC refining our position as we move forward and this lekgotla was a further refinement of that position,” Godongwana said.
The Expropriation Act
He said they were yet to finalise the specific conditions under which they proposed that the expropriation be carried out but would be guided by ANC documents that related to expropriating unused land and land held for speculation.
The December resolution adopted land expropriation without compensation on condition that it did not impact on agricultural production, food security and other sectors of the economy. Ramaphosa made the statement after an emergency meeting with an angry King Goodwill Zwelithini, who had made a thinly-veiled threat to secede if land under the Ingonyama Trust, of which he is the sole trustee, was targeted for expropriation.
When asked if the party would target commercial land, NEC member Ronald Lamola said the party would go after the 72 percent of land owned by white South Africans.
“So we are going to use the Expropriation Act to transform the 72 percent to reflect the demographics of this country. If you like, you can call it land affirmative action,” Lamola said. Since the ANC’s resolution last year, Parliament has been holding public hearings to allow people to air their views. The land debate has also dominated ANC NEC meetings and the party held a summit in May.
‘Dispossessing black people’
However, the ANC and EFF still hold contrasting views on who should own the land, with the ANC opposing that the Constitution should be amended to allow the state to own all land and lease it.
“We are not nationalising land of this country because if we do that, it means we are also going to dispossess black people who today have land. We are also going to dispossess black people who own houses in urban areas,” Lamola said. “Our members are supporting the amendments and made it clear that the land must be redistributed to the people. It means we are going to take it and give it to those who want to use it. We are going to give them title deeds,” he said.
Lamola warned that if the land was nationalised as proposed by the EFF, it would not translate to all South Africans owning land and it would not be free. He also said without necessary legislation, nationalisation of land could be defeated if challenged in the Constitutional Court. “If that thing is taken to the Constitutional Court, it will be found to be unjust and unequitable and the state will have to pay billions of rands and the state does not have those billions of rands,” he said.
The ANC denied that it was undermining the public hearings, currently under way in the Western Cape. “We are recognising that we are meeting at the tail end of that process and clearly, the implication of that is that most of our people favour the route we are taking. And therefore, as a political party, we will contribute like all other political parties to this process to the discourse in Parliament,” Godongwana said.
“We are not undermining that process,” he said.