South Africa: MPs Weigh in On Land Reform

Top: A farmhouse in the Free State. Bottom-left: Media image of the Constitutional Review Committee. Bottom-right: The National Assembly building in Cape Town.
14 November 2018

The Parliament's Joint Constitutional Review Committee says it has received recommendations and observations from Members of Parliament on whether section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to make it possible for the State to expropriate land without compensation in the public interest.

The committee, mandated by Parliament to consider whether a constitutional amendment is needed to ease expropriation of land without compensation, met on Wednesday to discuss this.

The committee said it heard from the African National Congress (ANC) that although everyone has the right to dignity, for centuries this right of the majority of the people of South Africa has been trampled on.

The ANC indicated that the original sin has to be corrected and it was clear that the people at the public hearings wanted the Constitution to be changed in order to be explicit and clear.

The party further reminded the committee that its role is merely to tell Parliament whether it is desirable or not to amend the Constitution.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), for their part, made it clear that this process was not a referendum and that there should not be an overemphasis on numbers but rather on substantive issues that were raised.

The EFF said it was clear from the comments that land was not a class division but rather one that divided the nation along racial lines, with whites regarding land as their privilege.

The National Freedom Party and United Democratic Movement were also in support of an amendment of the Constitution.

The African Christian Democratic Party told the committee that although it is in support of justice, reconciliation and nation building, it cannot support expropriation of land without compensation. It feels the current provisions in the Constitution adequately cater for land redistribution.

The Democratic Alliance, on the one hand, told the committee should this process be allowed to continue, it will not pass constitutional muster. The party felt the process was rushed.

The Inkatha Freedom Party, the Congress of the People, and Freedom Front Plus informed the committee that the Constitution in its current form is not an impediment to land distribution, but it is rather the State machinery and the executive that hamper the process.

Opposition parties, that are against the amendment of the Constitution, stated that they are doing the observations and recommendation under protest.

The committee was instructed by the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces to ascertain whether a review of section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses is necessary, to make it possible for the State to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation, and also to propose constitutional amendments where necessary.

The committee has already held hearings in all nine provinces and several days of oral submissions at Parliament.

It will continue deliberations on its report this morning.

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