Parliament - A presentation by the FW De Klerk Foundation to a parliamentary committee tasked with probing whether the Constitution should be changed to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation led to tense exchanges between MPs on Friday
The foundation's Theuns Eloff told Parliament's Constitutional Review Committee that while they acknowledged that the "status quo" on land ownership in South Africa was not ideal, they were opposed to amending section 25 of the Constitution.
Eloff said the foundation believed the failures in land reform was not as a result of the Constitution not being explicit about expropriating land without compensation but was due to government incapacity and corruption.
According to Eloff's written submission, the expropriation of land without compensation could have dire political and social consequences and could harm the economy and race relations in South Africa.
"If the accelerated land reform programme includes amending Section 25 in such a way that expropriation without compensation becomes a reality, it could lead to wide-scale socio-economic unrest, widespread land grabs and unlawful occupation of any land - regardless of who the owners are," the submission said.
"Taken the ineffectiveness and lack of capacity and number of the SAPS [South African Police Service] into account, the possibility of land owners taking the law into their own hands is very real. This could lead to a serious deterioration of race relations and even bloodshed and anarchy."
MPs did not appear convinced, with the African National Congress' Vincent Smith arguing that if there was no change to land ownership patterns "there is a greater risk of political unrest" given the land hunger in the country.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Tebogo Mokwele branded Eloff and his delegation as part of the "mob of 1652", referring to the start of white colonial expansion and land dispossession across South Africa.
"They claim that they advocate for peace and unity, now how are we going to have peace in South Africa when the most vulnerable communities of South Africa, which happens to be black, can't access land?" Mokwele asked.
"In your presentation you did mention that there will be war...you are cautioning us that something you are busy preparing yourself for, you are preparing your people for war. I've got proof of that."
Other opposition party MPs objected, taking Mokwele to task for making what they called divisive comments.
"It's very uncomfortable sitting with someone making these kinds of comments," said the Democratic Alliance's Annelie Lotriet, while another MP claimed Mokwele was"abusing the platform for narrow political ends".
Committee co-chairman Lewis Nzimande ruled Mokwele out of order, pleading with her to ask questions of clarity and not start the process of debate before deliberations among MPs begin in earnest.
Friday was the last day organisations and individuals could make oral submissions in Parliament to the Constitutional Review Committee on the matter.
African News Agency/ANA