Cape Town - Parliament's historic adoption of a report that paves the way for land expropriation without compensation faces several legal hurdles, with opponents vowing they will use every means at their disposal to stop the process.
The DA on Tuesday fired the first salvo in Parliament, saying it was going to the Constitutional Court to fight the process of amending the constitution.
The ANC also promised to oppose any action to stop the move to change section 25 of the constitution.
The threats of legal action came as the ANC prepared to table a motion in the National Assembly tomorrow for the amendment of the constitution.
This would allow for the introduction of a bill for the expropriation of land without compensation.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen told the media they had done everything to warn Parliament about serious flaws in the process, but their concerns were ignored.
He said the public participation process was flawed because 638000 written submissions were ignored.
“The ANC and EFF were dogged in their determination to ignore the more than 80% of written submissions that opposed the amendment of section 25 during the public participation process,” said Steenhuisen.
The ANC, on the other hand, argued that while 65% of the written submissions were against the expropriation of land without compensation, they believe the report reflected the views of most South Africans.
EFF leader Julius Malema told a media briefing at Parliament they were happy that the process had been finalised and were looking forward to the next phase of the process, when the bill is tabled in Parliament.
“Today is a good day in South Africa for the people because we have concluded the process of consulting South Africans,” said Malema.
ANC MP Vincent Smith said they had followed all the processes required to adopt the report.
“Let me be clear, the academics spoke to us and they said what they said. But the voices of the academics cannot trump the voices of the people,” he said.
The acting co-chairperson of the Constitutional Review Commission, Stan Maila, said opposition parties had already begun discussing plans for legal action with the farmers before the process was finalised. He said they were not surprised by the threat of court challenges.
AfriForum chief executive Kallie Kriel said his organisation, whose earlier court application to halt on Tuesday’s adoption was dismissed, would also challenge the merits of the public participation process.
“As it stands now, our papers are already in court and we are going ahead. We will use every method at our disposal, and spare no cost,” said Kriel.
The Transvaal Agricultural Union’s Chris van Zyl said the adoption of the report had been expected.
He said the ANC government, since 1994, had not sufficiently used its power to drive meaningful land reform.
“At one municipality in the Free State, the local sheriff took possession of 23 municipal farms because of debts owed by the municipality. If that is just one instance, how many hectares of land are lying out there where the beneficiaries were not supported?” asked Van Zyl.
Economist Azar Jammine said much depended on how the constitution was amended.
“Theoretically, it need not be particularly destructive. Much depends on the content of the amendment,” Jammine said. However, he said that what was of concern was that it created a precedent.
“One of the great success stories of South Africa is to be rendered vulnerable to interest groups, and that may well destroy a lot of confidence built up in South African governance procedures, and to that extent it will indeed hamper investment,” Jammine said.
“It was interesting to see the rand strengthening, but earlier today when the report came out it weakened by about 1%. That is a reflection that some investors decided to sell out - they were disappointed with the outcome,” he said.
Jammine also said each company disinvesting could negatively affect the rand and inflation.
“That puts pressure on the interest rate. The other negative impact is that you will not get the investment that is needed to promote high economic growth, and the chances of further credit ratings and downgrades are thereby enhanced,” he said.