Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Tensions are brewing as the country reacts to the amendment to the constitution to deliver the ANC and EFF’s policy of land expropriation without compensation, which was adopted by Parliament.

Although the move has been largely welcomed, pushback is being expressed from parties who view the process as political point-scoring by the ruling party ahead of next year’s election.

The ANC’s support of the EFF’s motion, just months after adopting the policy at their 54th National Conference in December, is seen as a means of reaching out to a voter support-base that was drawn to the EFF, which called for this very action from its early days.

According to a land audit by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform last year showed whites own 72% of SA’s farm and agricultural land, with coloureds coming in at 15% and blacks at 4%.

As it stands section 25 of the property clause states that: “no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property” and that “(property) may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application (a) for a public purpose or in the public interest; and (b) subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court”.

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The matter is now before Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee which is headed by the ANC’s Lewis Nzimande and Vincent Smith, who as co-chairpersons will oversee discussions on how to take the matter forward before reporting back to the National Assembly on August, 30.

With talks of protest actions and an appeal by advocacy group AfriForum to the international community to intervene, experts have insisted that speedily addressing land reform in the country requires more than changing a clause that in its current form is more than capable of addressing land redistribution.

AfriForum’s Kallie Kriel said they would do whatever was possible to prevent the country from becoming another Zimbabwe by disregarding property rights.

Constitutional law expert and head of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, Phephelaphi Dube, said amending the property clause is at best misguided and at worst, a cynical ploy to manipulate voter sentiments ahead of the 2019 national elections.

“There appears to be misunderstanding or even deliberate misinformation regarding the contents of the property clause.

"The property clause is not an impediment to effective land reform. Another wrongly-held view is that the property clause guarantees property rights, it does not, it merely protects against the arbitrary deprivation of property, for those who are owners.

"The property clause further seeks to ensure land reform through redistribution, land restitution and tenure security, as well as the equitable access to natural resources,” she said.

AgriSA’s Yolisa Mfaise said: “It is AgriSA’s assertion that the property clause in its current provisions is sufficient to achieve sustainable land reform. The section provides a reasonable and legally sound basis from which to develop policy and legislation to give effect to its provisions

“We raise a lot of concerns around this issue, one of them is the constitutional issue around it, as it stands, and it is not clear how such an amendment would look, how you would go about expropriating without compensation in a manner that does not adversely affect the economy, or food production for that matter."

Weekend Argus