Johannesburg - The ANC seems to be under intense pressure to come up with a clearer position on how it plans to implement land reform, after its MPs shot down a motion to amend the constitution and allow for the expropriation of land without compensation on Tuesday.
On Friday, President Jacob Zuma appeared to contradict the stance taken by ANC MPs who rejected the EFF’s motion when he said he was mulling over a number of constitutional amendments aimed at expropriating land without compensation.
This was the basis of the EFF’s motion to amend section 25 of the constitution when the red berets offered their support to the ANC parliamentary caucus, should the latter agree to their stance on radical land reform.
Zuma, delivering the keynote address at the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament on Friday, said: “First, we must 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 would then be undertaken to effect this process.”
The president’s call seems at odds with the views of some of his comrades. The ANC’s decision to turn down the EFF’s proposal has solicited wide condemnation from within the ruling party.
Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu tweeted: “Section 25 of our constitution is more of an abler for land reform than a barrier. We failed to take advantage of its provisions, full stop.” Another of his tweets reads: “Blaming the constitution for the embarrassingly slow pace of land reform is both disingenuous and scapegoating.
We failed, finish and klaar.” Party stalwart Tony Yengeni was equally upset and called on ANC deployees in Parliament to explain their indecision while the masses “are crying for land”.
Derek Hanekom tweeted: “This year we will begin to utilise the Expropriation of Land Act following the prescripts of our constitution.” Cosatu called on the government to “prohibit any compensation of individuals, whose property was acquired during apartheid and colonial forced removals”.
The ANC Women’s League, meanwhile, issued a strongly worded statement over the matter, and said it would meet with party’s top officials to discuss the issue further.
The land question has become the second biggest issue, after radical economic transformation, emanating from the ANC’s January 8 statement.
However, the SACP has rejected the agenda, which it characterised as “radical economic looting” that the ruling party was pushing for.
Seemingly unperturbed, Zuma said the land question remained central to reconciliation efforts and empowerment of the people and that “land hunger is real”.
His administration was looking at the possible “re-design and establishment of the National Land Commission as a Chapter 9 institution, so that it could have the necessary powers to help us reverse this historical injustice”.
This, he said, would also require a constitutional amendment, which would in turn “require unity and common purpose and action in the country to ensure redress and meaningful reconciliation”.
“Naturally, government and the governing party would want to ensure that this is an orderly process. We do not support chaos and illegal land grabs. Actions must be informed by the constitution and the laws of the land.
“In the meantime land reform continues on the basis of existing laws,” said Zuma.
Benjamin Cousins, senior professor at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape, said it was “interesting that the ANC refused to take the EFF offer” to support it in a vote to amend the constitution. The party would not have the required majority to go it alone.
“This suggests that the primary consideration of the ANC is its own political legitimacy than issues at hand. I think they are playing politics now that they are talking about passing a new law,” said Cousins.
He pointed to a lack of political will to address land reform properly and characterised radical economic transformation as being “about the survival of one faction of the ANC”.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane also criticised the “ANC’s contradictory positions” on land reform, saying Zuma had “gone rogue on land reform” for contradicting his cabinet and the ANC parliamentary caucus on the matter.
Political analyst Professor Dumisani Hlophe said the contradictory messages emanating from the ANC over the matter pointed, at face value, to that of a “confused party, maybe clueless”. “At the heart of this thing, I don’t think the problem is the laws. The problem is a performance issue. I don’t think the ANC government demonstrated absolute national performance as a state on a number of fronts, including on the question of land.
“I don’t think it’s been demonstrated by the president or anybody else that the ANC has not been able to distribute the land because it was blocked by the following laws,” said Hlophe.
That the ANC was dilly-dallying over the matter “is not a policy issue for me, it’s not even a legal matter for now. It’s a performance issue of the ruling party. It’s a (lack of) political will to use existing laws to redistribute land and change the country’s economic patterns”.
Zuma’s radical economic transformation theme was “more rhetorical than practical. It has an electioneering element. If the centre does not hold at (ANC headquarters) Luthuli House, the ANC in government won’t perform maximally,” said Hlophe.