Cape Town - The EFF says it might be willing to assist Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti if he is genuine about amending the constitution to effect land restitution without compensation.
This follows Nkwinti’s speech at last week’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) debate, where he said that for the government to achieve its goal of radical socio-economic transformation on land reform it would “undertake a pre-colonial audit of land ownership, use and occupation patterns”.
“Once the audit has been completed, a single law should be developed to address the issue of land restitution without compensation. The necessary constitutional amendments should be undertaken to effect this process”.
According to constitutional expert Professor Pierre de Vos, besides section 1 of the constitution, which deals with South Africa’s founding values, a two-thirds majority of members of the National Assembly (NA) is required to make amendments to the constitution.
Section 25 of the constitution relates to property rights and stipulates that the government can only expropriate land subject to providing just and equitable compensation.
The ANC has a 62.2% share of members in the NA and the EFF has 6.2%.
EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu told The Star that his organisation’s offer to give its 6.2% share to the ANC for the constitution to be amended in order for land to be expropriated without compensation still stood, as land restitution without compensation was an integral part of the EFF’s founding policies.
“We will not compromise on our principles regarding land for anything. So if the ANC approaches us to ask for our share of the vote to amend the constitution, we will be willing to listen to them and assist them if needs be,” he said.
However, he emphasised that he didn’t believe Nkwinti was serious about amending the constitution and developing laws to expropriate land without compensation, adding the ANC always tried to sound radical around this time of the year.
“The ANC are just talking and they’re not genuine about radical economic transformation. They do this every year during Sona because they know people are watching. They will say the same thing again next year without taking action,” Shivambu said.
But lobby group Afribusiness has taken the minister’s statements seriously and strongly opposed them - threatening court action if Nkwinti follows through on legalising expropriation without compensation.
“If there is anything we see that does not work with the vision of section 25 of the constitution we will definitely go to court to have that remedied,” said Armand Greyling, law and policy analyst at Afribusiness.
Greyling added the government’s more radical approach to land reform was due to pressure from the EFF, saying the government was willing to jeopardise the economy for political gain.
“On the one hand, the government says it is for job creation, but it also wants to push the political agenda on land reform and redistribution.
“If you are going to start infringing on private property ownership, then people will start withdrawing domestic and foreign investment, which means the jobs you want to start creating for the public will not be created,” Greyling said.
Meanwhile, a professor at the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, Ben Cousins, said the government’s land reform policies over the past 15 years had been incoherent and benefited a small group at the expense of the poor.
In a paper published last year, Cousins wrote that land reform had been “captured” by “emerging black capitalist farmers (often with non-farm incomes), traditional leaders, large-scale white commercial farmers and agribusiness corporates”, who were all benefiting more than the poor.
Cousins told The Star he believed the government should re-evaluate its current land reform policy framework to urgently put it on course as a pro-poor, poverty-reducing programme with job-creation potential.
“Firstly, we need to put into the centre of the programme securing people’s land rights. Secondly, we need to put in place that land must be transferred to potentially productive small-holder farmers - not commercial farmers but small holder farmers,” he said.