Vincent Smith, co-chairperson of Parliament's Joint Constitutional Review Committee

Cape Town - The African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape on Saturday congratulated the Joint Constitutional Review Committee for successfully conducting public hearings into whether the constitution should be amended to allow for expropriation of land without compensation.

The committee has held public meetings across the Western Cape in the past week and on Saturday finished the public consultation process with a public meeting in Goodwood in Cape Town.

In a statement, the party said: "The people of the Western Cape have spoken. From Oudtshoorn to Beaufort West, Citrusdal to Swellendam, and finally, the Cape Metro, our people have unequivocally and overwhelmingly said section 25 of the constitution must be amended in order to fulfill the broad and fair land ownership across the province.

"ANC is proud of its members who came out in numbers and made solid contributions in the public hearings. Our members and supporters are saying, land reform through the amendment of section 25 will open the province's productive forces, and contrary to popular belief, will actually increase agricultural productivity and will be the catalyst for the broad industrialisation of our country as millions get absorbed into mainstream economy.

"Our people are saying land is the basis for all economic activity and exclusion of the majority of citizens from land ownership prevents them from full participation in the economy. There is a clear message that land expropriation will have a positive impact also on social challenges as people are freed from burden of landlessness and lack of assets."

The statement added: "Our people believe that instead of affecting food security, land expropriation will actually expand it. Instead of causing social and economic upheaval, new economic players will emerge, and our economy may experience a leap forward."

The party said that contrary to the fears of some, including rightwing organisations, the ANC had made it clear throughout the process, and in its National and Provincial Land Summits, that "not only are we concerned about food productivity, we seek maximisation of all agricultural land, so instead of removing some productive forces from the system, more will be added".

Parliament's Joint Constitutional Review Committee on Saturday concluded the provincial public hearings into section 25 of the Constitution in the Cape Metropolitan Area with one of the biggest gatherings to date.

The committee, which held a total 34 hearings in all nine provinces of South Africa, was instructed by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to ascertain whether a review of this section and other clauses were necessary, to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation. It was also asked to propose the necessary constitutional amendments where necessary.

Hundreds of members of the public attended Saturday’s hearings at the Friend of God Church in Goodwood. The church has a capacity of 1,500. Long queues were still seen outside during the hearing and as people finished submissions, they made space for others to come into the venue.

Co-Chairperson of the committee, Vincent Smith, said following the hearings, the committee will assess the hundreds of thousands of written submissions it received after which it will invite those submitters, who indicated that they wanted to make oral presentations, to hearings at parliament. 

Once the process had been concluded, the multi-party committee will deliberate extensively on this matter before it reports to both Houses of Parliament.

The ruling ANC this week announced that it was going ahead with its intention to review the contentious section.

In a late address on Tuesday, ANC leader and President Cyril Ramaphosa said his party will, through the "parliamentary process, finalise a proposed amendment to the Constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected”.

African News Agency/ANA