Johannesburg - The possibility of working with other political parties to amend the Constitution to give effect to expropriating land without compensation was not ruled out by the chairman of the African National Congress (ANC) subcommittee on socio-economic transformation.
In an interview aired on ANN7 on Wednesday night, on the sidelines of South Africa's ruling ANC's 54th national conference in Johannesburg, Enoch Godongwana said the newly elected national executive committee will work out the manner in which Constitutional amendment will be implemented.
"Nobody in South Africa does not understand that there is land hunger and land anger...we are confronted by that situation and therefore the ANC is not going to defy the Constitution. If it is going to do this thing, the national executive must initiate an amendment to the Constitution," said Godongwana.
"Let's assume that a discussion by the national executive says we must initiate it in February. if we initiate that in February, despite the fact that we don't have a two-thirds majority, there's nothing that is stopping us from partnering with other parties who have a similar thinking and objective."
The ANC in Parliament falls short of a two-thirds majority and would need other parties to vote with it, should the amendment land up in the national legislature.
Godongwana would not be drawn on whether this meant a possible partnership with members of the ruling party's fiercest critics, the Economic Freedom Fighters, the country's third largest party, who have been championing expropriation without compensation, and even spurring people on to occupy land illegally.
"Don't put the cart before the horse. That decision will only be taken once the modalities are decided by the national executive committee."
During the contentious debate on land reform during conference scuffles broke out inside the plenary hall, something vehemently denied by the party's spokesman who went as far as rebuking a journalist for a tweet she sent, which later, according to video on social media, turned out to be true.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa opened a media briefing by the chairman of the party's subcommittee on socio-economic transformation, Enoch Godongwana, by berating journalist Qaanita Hunter, saying her tweet that physical blows were exchanged inside the plenary hall was "mischievous and complete distortion and completely false". Kodwa went as far as implying she was trying to "damage this conference".
Godongwana, however, contradicted Kodwa saying the debate was so tense it almost collapsed the conference.
"Was the debate strong? It was strong to the extent of getting rowdy but no one was beaten in the House. It was a bit tough, rowdy and nearly collapsed the conference. No doubt about that," he said.
"I would be misleading you if I didn't tell you [about] that but Mantashe didn't have to call security. He had himself...to step in and intervene and chair that for a moment and calm the house down," Godongwana said making reference to newly elected ANC national chairman Gwede Mantashe.
The debate ended with a decision that the ANC will forge ahead with an amendment to section 25 of the Constitution of the republic to ensure the expropriation of land without compensation happens.
Section 25 of the South African Constitution deals with property rights, and while it allows for the expropriation of land for public purpose and or in the public interest, it clearly states that landowners must be compensated by the government
Godongwana said there were conditions attached to the conference decision on expropriation without compensation, which was adopted at the party's policy conference in June. The sustainability of going ahead with it was one of these.
"What are the conditions for sustainability? Among those narrated [is] it must not impact on agricultural production, food security and other sectors of the economy."
According to Godongwana those who obtained land illegally will not be compensated.
The resolution also stated no illegal occupation of land will be tolerated.
The conference resolution will be discussed at a meeting with stakeholder, including non-governmental organisations and legal experts early next year, said Godongwana.
It's been 23 years since democratic rule replaced white-minority apartheid rule in South Africa yet most of the country's land remains in white hands.
The lack of land reform has led to the illegal occupation of land and tensions between black and white citizens in South Africa, with the one side saying the lack of land ownership continues to demoralise and impoverish black people. On the other hand, arguments are made that land expropriation without compensation will lead to disinvestment in a country which is already experiencing tough economic times.
Last year, Parliament passed the Expropriation Bill which allowed the State to acquire land without the owner's consent by paying a price determined by the office of the Valuer-General.
However, President Jacob Zuma referred the bill back to Parliament, claiming MPs did not adequately canvass views from the public.
African News Agency/ANA