ANC to amend Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation

The decision was taken on Wednesday night after a furious debate in a plenary session that became so heated, it came close to collapsing the conference.

Enoch Godongwana, chair of the ANC’s Sub-Committee on Economic Transformation, addressing the press predominantly on land appropriation without compensation. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - One of the big points to come out of the African National Congress (ANC) commissions is the issue of land.

The party says it will amend the Constitution to allow for land to be expropriated without compensation, but it also says that expropriation must first pass a “sustainability test”, so as not to threaten food security or undermine the economy.

The decision was taken on Wednesday night after a furious debate in a plenary session that became so heated, it came close to collapsing the conference.

The ANC is under increasing pressure over its slow implementation of land reform, a failing being exploited by the Economic Freedom Fighters, who pose a political threat to the ANC’s electoral chances.

Party officials denied that delegates almost came to blows, but Enoch Godongwana of the ANC’s economic transformation committee suggested it came close.

“Was the debate strong? It was strong to the extent of getting rowdy, but no one was beaten. It was a bit tough, rowdy and it nearly collapsed the conference. No doubt about that. I would be misleading you if didn’t tell you that.”

Godongwana says even those pushing for expropriation without compensation understand it has to be done in a way that didn’t put food security, agriculture production or other sectors of the economy at risk.

“Although there is general anger, there’s also a general acceptance that whatever policy we use must done in a sustainable way.”

But the party as yet has no plan for the sustainability test it says will have to be applied, or when the decision will be implemented.

The Constitution’s Section 25 allows for expropriation of land for a public purpose, or in the public interest, and subject to compensation which must be just and equitable.

In order to change the Constitution, the ANC needs a two-third majority in the National Assembly. On this it can rely on the EFF’s vote.

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Some in the agriculture sector have labelled the ANC’s decision as problematic, adding that it could see the whole redistribution process being slowed down by court battles.

Professor Ben Cousins is the chair of poverty, land and agrarian studies at the University of the Western Cape.
He says that the new ANC resolution causes a number of problems.

“I think there’s a problem with asking for foreign investment on the one hand and trying to secure the sustainability of food production while not paying compensation for the value of land. There are fundamental tensions and contraventions. In the end it’s not possible.”

Details around how this will be implemented are still unclear but AgriSA has called on farmers not to panic.

The organisation's Omri van Zyl says: “To expropriate land without compensation is the same as saying they should take five houses in a neighbourhood and give it to someone else. It’s not just the land story. There’s a broader story, like all the property rights. It’s something that goes very deeply into our legal system as well.”

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)