JOHANNESBURG - The National Assembly has given the go-ahead for section 25 of the Constitution to be amended to give effect to government policy of expropriating land without compensation.
In a heated debate in the National Assembly, MPs from South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) and its biggets political foes, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), were on the same page, as were some other smaller parties.
"Today, let it be the day of black unity in the name of Robert Sobukwe," EFF leader Julius Malema said, opening the debate on the day, forty years ago, that Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) founder Robert Sobukwe died.
"We don't seek revenge. We don't wish for their suffering. All our people ever wanted was their land to which their dignity is rooted," said Malema.
Malema rejected notions that it would be unconstitutional to amend the Constitution.
"All of us must come together and say enough is enough. Our people must get the land. We offer the ANC our six percent to amend the Constitution.those who don't agree will continue to ridicule our struggle, because they don't know the pain of losing land."
Cabinet Minister Gugile Nkwinti reminded MPs that a recent land audit showed that whites, despite being the smallest population group in the country, owned over 70 percent of the land. Coloureds owned 15 percent of the land, Indians five percent and black Africans, by far the majority, only four percent.
African People's Convention MP Themba Godi welcomed the way MP handled themselves during the debate, saying they were "sowing the seeds for black solidarity".
"We know that landlessness is the basis for the racism our people suffer, the basis of poverty our people suffer, the basis of our humiliation."
Agang's Molapi Plouamma supported this amendment and said naysayers should get with the programme. "Unlike in other countries where they choose arms, we use constitutional mechanisms."
The country's biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, is vehemently opposed to amending the Constitution, saying there was already a land redistribution programme in place, and suggested government was not doing enough to implement it.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen called the decision to change the section 25 of the Constitution as "lazy shortcuts to resolve the problem".
"This government for the last 25 years has not put its money where its mouth is."
Steenhuisen said rather than bypassing legislation, the ANC was meddling with the Constitution.
The African Christian Democratic Party said it was concerned that if the legal protections for property owners in the Constitution were removed, land reform could be open to government abuse.
Freeom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald was left incenced by the motion, shouting "skrik wakker (wake up)" to South Africans.
Groenewald said he had no doubt that when government spoke about land expropriation without compensation, it was not just referring to farm land.
"It will be all land, whether you live in a town or on a farm," said Groenewald.
The resolution was eventually put to a vote with 241 voting in favour of amending property clauses in the Constitution, while 83 voted against.
- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE