The voice of agriculture . Die stem van landbou . Izwe lezokulima

Amendment of fundamental human rights | Wysiging van fundamentele mensereg


The ANC and EFF put South Africa at risk with proposals to place land under custodianship. This half-baked idea has no constitutional basis and is an attempt to place agricultural production and land under the control of the state.
The state’s track record in this regard speaks volumes of incompetence, mismanagement, large-scale corruption and land grabbing by the political elite. South Africans will have to voice their opposition against absurd ideas such as nationalisation of land or the placement of land under custodianship.  The ANC and EFF is using this stunt to score cheap political points.
Placing natural resources under custodianship requires the establishment of an enormous bureaucracy that will have to administer land, its allocation and use, and monitoring and evaluation.
Moreover, it leaves the door wide open for corruption and large-scale bribery to allocate land or farms to politicians, their families, friends and wider patronage networks.
Agricultural land and productive farms can under no circumstances be allocated to people who have no intention to farm productively. Millions of acres of land, including once productive farms lie unused today! Furthermore, the state has no or little control over those who farm on state farms today! In many instances, benificiaries do honour the rental agreements and municipal and Eskom accounts are not paid.
Instead of nationalizing land or placing it under custodianship, the focus should shift to expanding ownership to millions of South Africans who own a house on communal, church and municipal land. The ANC and EFF leaders have title deeds on the properties they own. Why they do not want to extend this privilege to all citizens of South Africa, especially black South Africans who have been denied ownership, is inexplicable. This is a contradiction for which South Africa will pay a heavy price if the ANC and EFF try to steamroll it through parliament.
Not only does it undermine our current democratic order and deprives it our citizens of the right to own a property and bequeath it to their descendants, but it impoverishes those who acquired a property with blood and sweat and keeps the poorest of the poorest trapped in a poverty trap to be passed on from generation to another.
Property rights create wealth over the long term. Countries all over the world where property rights are protected and promoted has benefited economically tremendously.
Greater control by the state through nationalisation and custodianship only results in greater misery! Private ownership, on the other hand, frees people from the yoke of poverty and dependence on politicians and political parties who have no interest in their well-being, but making empty promises!
The amendment of an internationally recognised fundamental human right cannot be considered lightly.
Any deprivation of property without compensation constitutes a serious infringement of the rights of an individual. Property rights are a fundamental human right recognised as such in terms of most international conventions on human rights. Section 25 of the Constitution also stipulates that our courts, when interpreting the bill of rights, shall promote the values of an open and democratic society, with due cognisance of international law. International law is incorporated into, among others, the international conventions on human rights. Examples of international conventions that protect property rights are the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In most modern democracies, landowners do in fact have a constitutional right to compensation. A limitation on property rights can therefore not be instituted lightly. It is important to look at the motives behind the current drive to amend section 25 of the Constitution.
What are the real reasons for the lack of progress with land reform?
The motive cited for amending section 25 is ostensibly to expedite land reform. The chair of the parliamentary ad hoc committee tasked with the amendment of section 25 recently warned of a Zimbabwe-type scenario if political parties fail to reach an agreement on how section 25 will be amended.  The so-called Mothlantle report (High-level panel on key legislation) of 2017, which is probably the most authoritative report on land reform to date, found that the lack of progress with land reform was not as a result of the provision for compensation in section 25 but rather factors such as inadequate budget, lack of political will, poor implementation and corruption. In all the years since 1994, the allocation for land reform has never in any year exceeded 1% of the national budget. Moreover, the courts have on various occasions expressed strong criticism regarding poor implementation of land reform programmes by the department responsible for land reform. The Constitutional Court, in the Mwelase case, had the following to say: “South Africans have been waiting for more than 25 years for equitable land reform. The department’s failure to practically manage and expedite land reform measures in accordance with constitutional and statutory promises has profoundly exacerbated the intensity and bitterness of our national debate about land reform. It is not the Constitution, nor the courts, nor the laws of the country that are at fault in this. It is the institutional incapacity of the Department to do what the statute and the Constitution require of it that lies at the heart of this colossal crisis.”
There have also been various inquiries into serious and widespread corruption within the Department of Land Affairs and Rural Development.
To date, not one of these problems has been addressed.
Very serious potential economic consequences
Amendment of the constitution will not only fail to address the actual problems but will probably also have serious economic consequences. Agri SA appointed Dr. Roelof Botha to conduct an independent study to determine the possible consequences of expropriation without compensation. The study focused on the relationship between capital formation and gross domestic product. It was found that expropriation without compensation would have a devastating impact on economic growth and the government’s fiscal capacity to deliver services and pay grants. This could, of course, again result in large-scale social unrest. The impact on the agricultural and banking sectors will also be massive. Despite these warnings, the ad hoc committee is proceeding with the proposed amendments.
Recent turn of events: custodianship
The EFF made it clear a long time ago that they are in favour of state ownership of land. Their written submission on the amendment of section 25 had also, from the outset, contained a proposal that the state should serve as custodian of all South Africa’s resources and that legislation should be passed to define and contextualise such custodianship. Initially, it seemed as if the ANC did not support the notion, but before the ad hoc committee’s deadline was due to expire for the umpteenth time in May, the ANC representatives on the committee suddenly changed their stance and started to support the idea of custodianship. Currently, there is an official written proposal on the ANC’s table that legislation and policy should make provision for the custodianship of certain land. It is also proposes the inclusion of wording to the effect that land constitutes the communal heritage of all citizens and that the state should preserve such heritage for future generations.
Custodianship has a particular meaning in law. For this reason, the ANC’s argument that it would merely be a temporary measure and that land could still be transferred, will not stand. Custodianship of certain natural resources such as sensitive natural environments, for example, form part of American law. Custodianship was an alien concept within South African law until it was introduced in 1998 by way of the Water Act. It was later also made applicable to mineral rights and environmental legislation. Our law no longer allows for any private ownership of water and mineral rights. The state is not the owner but exercises control over the resource through licensing and permits. No compensation will be payable because it does not qualify as expropriation as defined in the Expropriation Bill.
It is also interesting that the ad hoc committee had simply ignored the warning issued by parliamentary legal representatives that in considering the custodianship proposals, the committee was acting outside its mandate.
Political motive
The following question arises: Why amend the Constitution if it will not address the actual problems, will not expedite land reform, is not aligned to international law and best practice, and could have serious economic consequences? Could the motive merely be short-term political gain?


Om eiendom sonder vergoeding weg te neem is ‘n baie ernstige ingryping in die regte van ‘n individu. Eiendomsreg is ‘n fundamentele mensereg wat deur die meeste internasionale konvensies op menseregte as sodanig erken word.

Artikel 39 van die Grondwet bepaal ook dat ons howe, by die uitleg van die handves van regte, die waardes van ‘n oop en demokratiese samelewing moet bevorder. Die howe moet ook die volkereg in ag neem. Die volkereg is onder meer vervat in die internasionale konvensies op mensregte. Voorbeelde van internasionale konvensies wat eiendomsreg beskerm, is onder meer die Verenigde Nasies se universele verklaring van menseregte, die Europese konvensie oor menseregte, en die Afrika-konvensie oor menseregte.

In die meeste moderne demokrasieë het grondeienaars wel ‘n grondwetlike reg op vergoeding. Die beperking van eiendomsreg kan dus nie ligtelik onderneem word nie.  Dit is daarom belangrik om die motiewe te ondersoek vir die druk om artikel 25 te wysig.

Ware redes vir stadige grondhervorming

Grondhervorming moet bespoedig word, is die rede wat aangevoer word vir die wysiging van artikel 25.  ‘n Zimbabwe-scenario wag op ons as politieke partye nie kan ooreenkom hoe om dit te wysig nie, het Mathole Motshekga, voorsitter van die parlementêre ad hoc-komitee oor artikel 25, dié week gesê.

Die Kgalema Motlanthe-verslag van 2017, waarskynlik die mees gesaghebbende verslag tot nog toe oor grondhervorming, het bevind die vereiste van vergoeding in artikel 25 is nie die probleem nie. Dit is faktore soos ‘n ontoereikende begroting, ‘n gebrek aan politieke wil en swak implementering in die departement van landbou, grondhervorming en landelike ontwikkeling wat vordering belemmer. Ernstige en wydverspreide korrupsie binne die department is ‘n verdere hindernis.

Sedert 1994 is daar nie in ‘n enkele jaar meer as 1% van die nasionale begroting aan grondhervorming bestee nie. Boonop het die howe al by verskeie geleenthede fel kritiek uitgespreek oor die departement se versuim om grondhervormingsprogramme in werking te stel.

Die Konstitusionele Hof het byvoorbeeld in 2019 in die Mwelase-uitspraak gesê: “South Africans have been waiting for more than 25 years for equitable land reform. The department’s failure to practically manage and expedite land reform measures in accordance with constitutional and statutory promises has profoundly exacerbated the intensity and bitterness of our national debate about land reform.

“It is not the Constitution, nor the courts, nor the laws of the country that are at fault in this. It is the institutional incapacity of the Department to do what the statute and the Constitution require of it that lies at the heart of this colossal crisis.”

Toetie Dow van die San by ‘n openbare sitting in Jansenville oor artikel 25.

Ernstige ekonomiese gevolge

Nie net sal ‘n grondwetwysiging nie die werklike probleme oplos nie, dit sal heel waarskynlik ook baie ernstige ekonomiese gevolge vir die land hê. Agri SA het dr. Roelof Botha aangestel om ’n onafhanklike ekonomiese studie te doen met  die fokus op die verhouding tussen kapitaalvorming en die bruto binnelandse produk.

Dit het bevind dat onteiening sonder vergoeding ‘n vernietigende impak sal hê op ekonomiese groei en die regering se fiskale vermoë om dienste te lewer en toelaes te betaal. Dít kan natuurlik weer lei tot grootskaalse sosiale onrus.

Die impak op die landbou- en banksektore sal reusagtig wees. Ten spyte van hierdie waarskuwings gaan die ad hoc-komitee steeds voort met die beoogde grondwetwysigings.


Die EFF maak dit lank reeds duidelik dat hulle staatseienaarskap van alle grond voorstaan.  Hulle skriftelike voorstel oor die wysiging van artikel 25 het van die begin af die voorstel bevat dat die staat die voog van al Suid-Afrika se natuurlike hulpbronne moet wees – en dat daar wetgewing moet kom om hierdie voogdyskap te definieer en te kontekstualiseer.

Aanvanklik het dit gelyk asof die ANC nie hierdie gedagte steun nie, maar net voor die verstryking van die ad hoc-komitee se soveelste sperdatum in Mei het die ANC-verteenwoordigers op die komitee skielik die voogdyskap-gedagte begin ondersteun.  Daar is nou ‘n amptelike skriftelike voorstel van die ANC op die tafel waarin hulle voorstel dat wetgewing en beleid voorsiening moet maak vir die voogdyskap van sekere grond. Daar word verder voorgestel dat ‘n bewoording ingesluit moet word dat grond die gemeenskaplike erfenis van alle burgers is en dat die staat hierdie erfenis vir toekomstige geslagte moet bewaar.

Voogdyskap het ‘n bepaalde betekenis in die reg. Daarom gaan die ANC se argument nie op dat dit slegs ‘n tydelike maatreël kan wees en grond steeds oorgedra kan word nie. Voogdyskap was ‘n vreemde konsep in die Suid-Afrikaanse reg totdat dit in 1998 deur middel van die Waterwet ingevoer is. Later is dit ook van toepassing gemaak op minerale regte en omgewingswetgewing.

Daar bestaan nou geen privaat eienaarskap meer oor water en minerale regte nie.  Die staat is nie die eienaar nie, maar oefen beheer uit oor die hulpbron deur middel van lisensies en toestemmings. Geen vergoeding sal betaalbaar wees nie, want dit is nie onteiening soos gedefinieer in die Onteieningswetsontwerp nie.

Dit is interessant dat die ad hoc-komitee waarskuwings van die parlementêre regsverteenwoordigers, dat hulle buite hulle mandaat beweeg met die voogdyskap-voorstelle, bloot ignoreer.

Politieke motief

Die vraag onstaan dan: As die wysiging van die Grondwet nie die werklike probleme gaan oplos nie, nie grondhervorming gaan bespoedig nie, nie strook met internasionale reg en beste praktyk nie en ernstige ekonomiese gevolge gaan hê, waarom dit steeds doen?

Is die motief dalk bloot korttermyn- politieke gewin?

* Christo van der Rheede is die uitvoerende hoof van Agri SA en Annelize Crosby is hoof van Agri SA se grondsentrum van uitnemendheid.

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