File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Rocky start to land reform hearings

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Mar 27, 2021

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Cape Town - The hearings into amendments to Section 25 of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation got off to a bumpy start this week, with the EFF and Afriforum butting heads with MPs.

But co-chairperson of the ad hoc committee on land expropriation Mathole Motshekga set down the ground rules before the parties got into a sparring match.

The oral submissions saw the interest groups either backing amendments to the Constitution or rejecting it outright.

The hearings were however not without drama as Afriforum head of policy Ernst Roets was embroiled in a verbal sparring match with MPs.

This was after Roets said his organisation did not have confidence in Parliament to resolve the issues, and that the people were not properly represented in the national legislature.

In its submission, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference found itself having to explain what was deemed as an ambiguous position when it said it neither supported nor did not support expropriation of land without compensation.

“What we are trying to avoid is a simplistic approach. That amounts to sloganeering,” Mike Pothier, programme manager for the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office, said.

“There would be cases where argument would be clear and persuasive. There would be others it would need negotiations when circumstances are not clear,” he added.

In his oral submission, CEO of Afribusiness Piet le Roux, said expropriation of land without compensation would be incompatible with constitutionalism.

Le Roux said the state’s power to expropriate was accompanied by an obligation of payment of market value for loss of property.

Cosatu parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks said the labour federation supported the amendment of the constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation.

“We support the 18th amendment of the constitution wholeheartedly. It is correct and is long overdue,” Parks said.

In their joint presentation, the South African Real Estate Association (SAREIT) and South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) said Section 25 already provided for awarding just and equitable compensation and in appropriate cases, the amount could be a nil figure.

The Black Management Forum threw its weight behind the amendment of the constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation.

Anton van Dalsen of the Helen Suzman Foundation said the existing Section 25 already made a provision for expropriation without compensation.

Van Dalsen said the land reform process has not been affected by Section 25 of the Constitution.

Annelize Crosby, of Agri SA, said they were opposed to the amendment of Section 25.

“That does not mean we don’t recognise the need for land reform. We need to speed up land reform,” she said.

Crosby warned that the amendment would send a particular signal on the economy and might lead to negative sentiments on part of the investors.

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), said changing the constitution or laws would not shift the patterns of land ownership, unless there was a change in the land reform programme.

Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo said his organisation supported the process of land reform in South Africa to alter the skewed landholder patterns.

He, however, said they were of the view that the assumption behind the proposed amendment of the constitution, that the supreme law did not allow expropriation of land without compensation, was an incorrect interpretation.

“Without some fundamental changes to the entire programme of land reform by the state, it is not likely that any changes in the constitution or the law will shift landholding patterns to achieve the vision of the constitution.”

He said the focus of land reform should be institutional reorganisation.

“The Commission on Land Restitution needs a new mandate and additional resources. It needs to focus on corruption and looting in the land reform.”

This week’s proceedings were not without drama as the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development as well as Public Works and Infrastructure were sent packing.

This after their presentations were deemed not to address the challenges related to land reform and how they planned tackling them.

The committee also took a dim view of the parallel process of amending the Expropriation Bill while it was busy amending the constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation.

The public works and infrastructure portfolio committee also held its own hearings on the long overdue Expropriation Bill introduced to Parliament after cabinet approval.

Chairperson Mathole Motshekga noted the matter had been raised at Wednesday public hearings.

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