Political parties in the National Assembly debate the report by the Constitutional Review Committee recommending that section 25 of the Constitution should be changed. PHOTO: Chantall Presence/ANA

Parliament - The African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday reiterated that the call for public submissions on whether the Constitution should be amended to explicitly provide for land expropriation without compensation was not a referendum but a call for "meaningful public participation".

Speaking during the debate in the National Assembly on a report by the Constitutional Review Committee recommending that section 25 of the Constitution should be changed, committee co-chairman Stanford Maila berated opposition parties for insisting that written submissions which were overwhelmingly against an amendment should be given more weight than public hearings in provinces which showed support for an amendment.

"Though it is of no significance, 65 percent of the submissions were against amending the Constitution," said Maila.

"From the outset, it should be clarified that this House did not give this committee the mandate to conduct a referendum. As a result, who makes an overemphasis on numbers would be grossly out of order."

He said a legal challenge to the report and the amendment by the political opposition was a foregone conclusion.

The Democratic Alliance confirmed that it would head to court to challenge the report and, in the debate, said it would vote against the report because its recommendation was a foregone conclusion, announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on television, well before the committee had completed its task.

DA MP Thandeka Mbabama told the National Assembly: "The recommendation of the CRC to amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation was a foregone conclusion. That is why ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa cynically made a late night announcement on TV in July that the ruling party had decided to go ahead with changing the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation. "

She added: "It is obvious that, from the onset, the integrity of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) was compromised by collusion between the wily EFF and the beleaguered ANC."

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema said those opposed to land expropriation without compensation were protecting white privilege at the expense of black people.

"This is in defence of white privilege which seeks to perpetuate landlessness among our people," Malema told the chamber.

Malema went further, accusing those opposed to changing the status quo where white people, the minority in South Africa, owned the majority of land, of herd mentality.

"White people who came, all of them, poor or rich, the landless white people, all of them came in unison and opposed the expropriation of land without compensation because the reality is that where white interests and privilege is threatened, they protect one another and they don't care when the other is in the wrong."

The Inkatha Freedom Party, Freedom Front Plus and the Congress of the People (Cope) all said it would oppose the recommended amendment.

Freedom Front Plus MP Corne Mulder charged that the report was "not worth the paper it was written on", citing amongst other objections, a lack of debate within the committee.

Cope's Deirdre Carter insisted that in its current form, section 25 of the Constitution allowed for expropriation without compensation and carried an explicit mandate for land reform.

"Just and equitable compensation could very well mean very little or no compensation," she said, in reference to the current wording of the clause.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Kenneth Meshoe said his party was strongly opposed to land expropriation without compensation and called for the Constitutional Court to be asked to interpret "the full parameters of section 25".

Meshoe added that expropriation without compensation would threaten food security, agricultural reform and investment.

African News Agency (ANA)