Since 1996, the government has transferred a considerable amount of land, but it was widely regarded as a failure because a recent audit revealed that majority of land still belonged with white people.
The government has since been put under pressure to speed up land reform.
It is said to see expropriation without compensation as a tool to rectify imbalances of the past, reduce inequality, promote land ownership and agricultural sector participation by black people.
National Freedom Party MP, Ahmed Munzoor Shaik-Emam, who voted in favour of the expropriation without compensation motion, said land must be returned to its rightful people.
“Long before the land was taken by the white people, it belonged to the San and Khoi Khoi.
“Some may have bought the land, but there are those who are living on land unlawfully and it must be given back.
“Our view is simple. They must be removed, even if they try to resist. We cannot live a normal life without giving the people the land they rightfully own.”
Shaik-Emam said it was not their intention to land grab because this was not a “banana republic”.
Unlawful farm owners, he said, must relinquish their land as it had been 24 long years of pain and suffering.
“People have become millionaires with the blood and sweat of the rightful owners. We have run out of patience. For 24 years, we have been trying. Now we have to put measures to enforce those occupying the land to return it.”
He said many have claimed that South Africa would become a “second Zimbabwe” and conceded to this notion if the people were not taught how to care for the land.
“You cannot take a piece of land you have deprived someone for decades and expect them to make a success of it. What must equally happen is when the farmers who are giving back the land, they must transfer their skills too.
“Government must also equip and prepare people to make a success of themselves.”
MP Thandeka Mbabama, the DA’s spokeswoman for Rural Development and Land Reform, who voted against the motion, said they were fully committed to redressing the history, but were unwilling to let other parties turn the attention away from “wide-scale corruption, inefficiency, chronic underfunding and bad policy”.
“Indeed, the high-level panel headed by former president Kgalema Motlanthe found that the need to pay compensation has not been the most serious constraint on land reform in South Africa - other constraints, including corruption by officials, the diversion of the land reform budget to elites, the lack of political will, and the lack of training and capacity have proved more serious stumbling blocks to land reform.”
She said the government currently had about 4000 farms and vast tracts of state land available for redistribution.
“In the metros, where the DA governs, we have already distributed more than 75000 title deeds, and in the DA-led Western Cape our approach has accelerated the pace of land reform and led to the success of 62% of all land reform farms.”
Mbabama said the DA would defend the constitution and show that expropriation without compensation was not the solution to assisting the poor and marginalised in accessing land and economic opportunities.
“We believe it is possible to achieve the aims of land reform and to do so in a way that truly empowers black people and strengthens the economy. We reject the opportunism of launching an attack on the constitution to deflect from the failures of the ANC-led government.”
Minority Front councillor Jonathan Annipen added that the expropriation of land without compensation might leave the country ungovernable if not actioned with extreme caution and sensitivity.
“In principle, returning land to black owners in particular, who had their land forcibly removed, is perhaps long overdue. The apartheid regime caused divides that run deep even to this day.
“However, we must always approach any form of restitution in a spirit of unity synonymous with a rainbow nation.
“Any notion that land redistribution may be conducted by force without consultation between relevant stakeholders and proper arrangements made for housing, agriculture, recreation, etc, would make South Africa look like a nation without any rule of law.”
Annipen continued: “Indian people worked tirelessly to preserve their dignity by purchasing land. The prospect that such individuals will be removed without any consideration will mean this new policy is no different to that atrocious Group Areas Act instituted by the colonialist government.
“We believe any policy developed in this young democracy should consider that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.”